Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Big 40...0. 400.

I am almost a few days short of hitting my eighteen month mark in the baseball card blogging world and I have reached my 400th post at the same time.  I am often amazed at how much I have enjoyed writing these posts and am not sure why I did not start blogging my trades and purchases sooner.  Before delving into today's card I just wanted to take a second to thank everyone who takes a few minutes out of their day to read about my cards.  Thank you.

2008 Topps Red Hot Rookies Evan Longoria Auto 

Some of the more recent Topps sets have been pretty missable, but the 2008 set has to be the bright spot in the more recent releases of the base set.  The cards actually have a white border, but I really like the circle design at the top of the card.  Pretty distinct and attractive look in my opinion.  

The 2008 Topps release also marked the first year that Topps issued the Red Hot Rookies redemptions.  The cards were also issued in 2009 and 2010, but the 2008 set stands out heads and shoulders above the other two efforts.  All three redemptions offered a chance at a limited edition rookie card which took after the base set design from the year, but Topps but the orangish/red border on the card seen on the Longoria card above.  

The 2008 set featured autographs of Longoria and Bruce.  The 2009 set had an autograph of Gordon Beckham and the 2010 set featured an autograph of Brett Wallace.  Clearly the 2008 issue wins.  

I have a few nice Longoria cards in my collection and I am always in the market for a few more.  This card is an official Longoria rookie, but his actually rookie card was in the 2006 Bowman set.  Never-mind the fact that this card is not an official rookie card, the 2008 Topps Red Hot Rookie is one of the best autographed cards of Longoria on the market.  

Generally the most common Longoria autographed cards sell in the range of $25 to $30, but this card tends to price closer to Longoria's premium, low-print run autographs.  The card often drifts north of $50 and graded versions might drift over $100.  The print run of this card has never been disclosed, but many people have guesstimated the cards print run to be around 100.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer of the Double

I know there is some hype going around this summer about the home run pace that Chris Davis is on and whether or not he can come close to crossing the non-steriod home run record of Roger Maris.  Across the diamond there is another chase going on that is getting far less attention around baseball, but has had me riveted on the Orioles box scores the past month or two.  The doubles chase.

In someways I feel as if I have jinxed Orioles third baseman Manny Machado by spending time on the Orioles box scores.  I skip the Chris Davis stuff and focus on Machado.  Davis is not going to pass 61, so let's focus on a breakable record.  Well, maybe.  At some point in June I started paying close attention to the doubles hit by Machado.  He ended the month with 38.  During July he has hit 1.

The overall line of Machado has slipped greatly during the month of July.  He's posted a line of .208/.288/.333 with a few days to go.  However, he's also still on pace to hit 60 doubles this season, which is seven short of the record.  Still pretty remarkable stuff considering that since the end of World War II no player has reached the 60 double plateau.

Todd Helton had a total of 59 in 2000 and several players including Carlos Delgado, Garrett Anderson,  Biggio, Berkman, Garciaparra, George Kell, and who could forget Brian Roberts all crossed 55.  Assuming that Machado can recover from his July swoon, he still has plenty of time to accomplish a rare feat this summer.  At least, in my opinion, a much better chance than Davis.

If only a few more people would take notice of the doubles chase.  After taking notice and following the box scores what's the next logical step in my world?  Baseball cards and I am thin in the world of Manny Machado.  A 21 year old hitting almost .300 on pace for 60 doubles on a first place team is worthy of my attention.  So, I scanned the market.  Looked at a few trade possibilities.  Look at a few purchase possibilities then decided to swap out a Ryan Braun auto, Kershaw auto, and some small relics and what-not for a Machado auto.  I will miss Kershaw.  Braun.  Good riddance.  Here's my new get:

2010 Bowman Manny Machado Autograph 

This is considered a Machado rookie if you do not consider he's in a bunch of 2009 USA Baseball products.  The card is a sticker autograph and is pretty common, but for some reason its one of the better selling and trading Machado autographs out on the market.  Personally, I was really aiming for one of the USA Baseball autos, which despite being limited in print run, on-card, and difficult to find at times, sell and trade for less than this card.  Go figure.  Anyway, I am happy with the addition and will find more Machado autographs to post here in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, check the O's box scores and lets root for some doubles.  Do you think a doubles record gets press coverage in October?  I sure Machado picks it back up.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2009 Bowman Sterling Justin Masterson Autograph

Sometimes I wonder if collectors actually watch and pay attention to what's going on during the Major League Baseball season.  Honestly, there are some cards that simply do not fit their price.  Both ways, high and low.  Why are ARod autographs not $20 yet?  Seriously, I still see collectors paying a premium for his ink.  What can he possible accomplish to justify spending $100 on his autograph that has not been completely washed away by the fact that he's a little bit slimly?

Same can be said for several players being undervalued.  I recently ran into a Justin Masterson autograph and was shocked to find it available for $3.  While he is not going to win the Cy Young Award this season, Masterson has been one of the key players in leading the Cleveland Indians to respectability this season.

2009 Bowman Sterling Justin Masterson Autograph 

Three dollars for the autograph of an above-average player is ridiculously cheap.  Masterson is out performing pitchers like C.C. Sabathia, but yet his autograph sells for a fraction of the Yankees hurler.  Sure, there is the fact that Masterson is stuck playing in Cleveland while Sabathia is toiling in mediocrity under bigger lights in New York, but still there seems to be little reasoning behind the price some collectors pay for the signatures of certain players.  Masterson does have a pretty extensive line of autographs and signed frequently as a younger player including several on-card signatures.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

2003 Upper Deck Mark of Greatness Mark McGwire Autograph

I picked up a very nice and rare autograph for my collection in the middle of the week in a trade.  I'm always in the market for some good McGwire cards, but there are not always a lot of them floating around.  Big Mac has to be one of the stingiest signers of all-time.  He rarely signs and when he does sign he signs in small numbers.  There are non-certified autographs of the former Cardinals and A's slugger, but the he's also the only player I have every heard of getting their own task force to crack down on the overabundance of fake autographs.   In fact, there is a website with a built in McGwire autograph quiz.  Pretty fun.

Needless to say that I do not come across many McGwire signatures for trade and buying the most common certified autographed cards, the overwhelming majority of which have less than 25 print runs, often involves arms, legs, and second mortgages.  Really, they will be in the low 100s for something basic and double or triple that for something rare.  So, if you see a McGwire autograph and it's for trade, or selling for less than $100, it's time to be pro-active.  Really.  Even if you do not like McGwire he always has one of the best secondary card markets because he does not sign.  Rarely.

I saw the card posted and I overwhelmed a friendly Royals collector with a nice low number Brett autograph, one of those cool Alex Gordon 2006 Topps cards, and a sampling of a few other nice young Royals autos and within minutes I had landed myself this very nice piece of cardboard:

2003 Upper Deck Mark of Greatness Mark McGwire Autograph 

This card is actually serial numbered out of 70 which makes it the highest numbered McGwire autograph I have ever seen.  It probably means it's also the highest that's out on the secondary market anywhere.  I also like this card because it has a swatch of McGwire jersey.  Just like his autographs, McGwire relic cards are quite tough.  In fact, I have meet a few really hard core McGwire collectors who swear that a McGwire relic might actually be the tougher pull between that and an autograph.  More on that later.  This is my second certified McGwire autograph in my collection.  My other Big Mac is from the 2002 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection and is not quite as nice as this signature.

A Pair of Panini USA Baseball Cards

I have slowly been assembling cards from the 2013 Panini USA Baseball set and picked up two more great cards for my collection during the past week.  I am not trying to put together a complete set or anything, but rather just gather some of the good Cardinals and NC State players appearing in the set.  I might sprinkle in a couple other cool cards along the way too.

First up this morning is a jersey card from NC State junior to be Carlos Rodon.  Keith Law on ESPN is already projecting him as the first overall pick in next year's draft and most would be surprised if he fell very far past the first couple of picks.

2013 Panini USA Baseball Carlos Rodon Jersey Card

Rodon is a left-handed power pitcher and has the Verlander-esque quality of actually ramping up his velocity during the course of a game.  He might start out a game throwing 92-93 and by the fifth inning is sitting at 95-96.  One of his best performances of the year was during the ACC tournament against UNC.  Rodon pitched 10 innings, allowed 1 hit, 1 unearned run, and struck out 14.  UNC has several top offensive prospects including Colin Moran.

The value of his cards is already pretty much sky high for a guy who has not thrown an inning of professional baseball.  Perhaps they will fall a little bit out of season, but I am not counting on much of a slide.  His autographs are generally pushing triple digits in price.  Hate to say that Rodon has priced himself out of my market, but I generally do not push the envelope gambling on high end prospect cards.  

2013 Panini USA Baseball Kolten Wong Autograph 

My second card this morning is an autograph from Cardinals second base prospect Kolten Wong.  The Cardinals currently have Matt Carpenter playing second, but many people believe that Wong will still get a chance at second with Carpenter returning back to his natural position of third base.  That means that third baseman David Freese is likely trade bait, or will be non-tendered at the end of the season.  

Second base has been a bit of a revolving door for the Cardinals during the past decade.  There was Bo Hart, Tony Womack, Mark Grudzielank, Aaron Miles, Hector Luna, Ronnie Belliard, Adam Kennedy,  Julio Lugo, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, and Carpenter.  Not exactly the model of stability.  The Cardinals are hoping that Wong will hold down the position a little bit longer than some of his predecessors.  

Currently Wong is posting a .298/.358/.466 line in AAA Memphis.  He's, by all accounts, a solid defender too.  I am guessing he will get a call up in September and will compete for the starting job next year.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Today's Episode: He's Not Ernie Broglio, but he's close. Or: Put Jim Edmonds in the Hall.

I picked up a rather amusing card this past week featuring the signature of one Kent Bottenfield.  Angels fans should stop reading at this point and find something else to read.  I suggest this article, but everyone else may continue reading.  So, first hear is the spectacular autograph of Kent Bottenfield. 

2000 Skybox Autographics Kent Bottenfield Autograph

In all sincerity, I really like looking at Bottenfield's signature.  He's got a really nice looking graph and takes a lot of time to sign cards, balls, or anything else that you can bring him.  Somewhere I have a ticket stub he signed for me once at a game back in 2004.  It was the slowest moving autograph line I have ever waited in, but well worth the wait.  Bottenfield does not disappoint on cardboard either.  In fact, this is his only autograph issue, but they are rather easy to find.  I just got around to getting this card now.  

So, who is Kent Bottenfield and why is he almost Ernie Broglio?  Bottenfield came up through the minors with the Expos, was traded to the Rockies, and then was released by a bunch of teams before ending up with the Cubs for two seasons.  Eventually he turned up on the Cardinals during the 1998 season which set the stage for a few head scratching turns.   

First off, I am not saying Kent Bottenfield was ever on steroids.  Mediocre player suddenly has a magically awesome year out of nowhere....  Check out the physique, but after being a journeyman long reliever/spot starter he won a spot in the Cardinals rotation during the 1999 season, at the age of 30, and posted a line of 18-7 with a 3.97 ERA.  He was named to the National League All-Star team too. 

Most people would probably place Bottenfield's 1999 season along side the 2006 postseason run of Jeff Weaver and the 1990 27 win performance of Bob Welch as resume pieces for Dave Duncan to be the first coach, non-manager to be in the Hall of Fame.  Duncan was a stickler for details as a coach and got a lot out of players who probably were fringe Major League pitchers.  Jason Simontacchi comes to mind too.  

Even crazier than the fact that Bottenfield went from a fringe starter to National League All-Star is the fact that the Cardinals were able to parlay Bottenfield's 1999 performance, along with Adam Kennedy (shown below dressed as a homeless guy next to Kip Wells) into a trade for Jim Edmonds. 

Adam Kennedy on the right.  Is that a mustard stain?

While most Cardinals fans will always put the Lou Brock and Ernie Broglio trade into the top spot on the franchises greatest fleecings, the Bottenfield and Kennedy for Edmonds trade is not far behind.  Broglio had been a twenty game winner for the Cardinals once and nearly dulicated the feat again before being dealt to the Cubs for Lou Brock and was on the south side of thirty.  In parts of four seasons with the Cubs Brock was hitting below .260 with only 50 steals.  Actually seems like the Cubs were getting a pretty good deal at the time.

Meanwhile, in 1999 Bottenfield was a fringe player having a career year.  Kennedy was a decent second base prospect, but was blocked after the 1999 season when the Cardinals signed Fernando Vina who had a good run with the Cardinals.  So, going into the trade the Cardinals were giving up a decent prospect and a journeyman pitcher for Jim Edmonds who, at the time of the trade, had already won two Gold Gloves while hitting more than 20 home runs four times.  Outstanding considering there are not many center fielders that can hang with Edmonds defensively and few that can out slug him on offense.   

As a Cardinal Edmonds posted a .947 OPS in 8 seasons with an OPS+ of 143.  Add in a few more Gold Gloves, a few Silver Sluggers, a top 5 MVP finish, six playoff appearances, three NLCS appearances, and a World Series ring in 2006.  Edmonds did bounce around between the Padres, Cubs, Brewers, and Reds his last few years, but has almost 400 home runs to go with his 8 Gold Gloves.  The players ahead of him in the Gold Glove count are guys like Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro, and Roberto Clemente.  Some of his comparable offensive players at Baseball Reference are Duke Snider, Larry Doby, and Carlos Beltran.  

While I am not suggesting that Edmonds is a first ballot Hall of Famer, his defense was incredible and his offensive numbers, given the fact that he played centerfield at a high level, should give him some serious consideration.  He did not have the same impact on the game defensively that a player like Ozzie Smith had, but he was not far behind.  Obviously, Edmonds is a far better offensive player than the Wizard though.  If I had a ballot I would put him in.  Now, my favorite Edmonds play and no he's not a Cardinal at the time:  

After a year and a half, a football card

I had the chance to pick up a really nice card the other day in the dime bin of a local card shop.  It was a surprising card to find there since much of the Raleigh-Durham sports market revolves around college sports and the athlete featured on today's card is one of the better local athletes that you can find.  Now, the title of my post would suggest that I was going through the football dime bin, but I was actually in the baseball bin.  The card is technically a baseball card, but it just has a football player on the front.

2010 Bowman Draft Green Russell Wilson 

This 2010 Bowman Draft Russell Wilson is the green parallel to the base card that he has in the set and is numbered out of /399.  I have a pretty good start to the Russell Wilson "card rainbow", but I guess I was maybe one of the few people that was excited to see him appear on a baseball card back in 2010 which made it fairly easy to pick up the parallels on the cheap.

Wilson's popularity has grown over the past few years since he has been drafted by the Seattle Seahawks and is now considered one of the up and coming college quarterbacks.  His NFL stardom has actually made the prices of his baseball cards skyrocket from cards that were worth a few cents to cards that are worth a few dollars.

Frankly, I was surprised that a Russell Wilson card was in the dime bin at a card shop in this area considering that Russell Wilson brought the area three years of great football.  I am a baseball person first, basketball second, and football third, but I still watch all the NC State games and loved when Wilson was making plays like this for the Wolfpack:

Plus it was against the Tar Heels.  GTHC.  Now, baseball complicated Wilson's football career at NC State since he was drafted by the Rockies as a baseball player after his junior year.  Wilson played two summers of professional baseball and returned to NC State to be blocked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon.  State released Wilson from his scholarship and he ended up at Wisconsin.  

Personally, I had no problem with Wilson trying his hand at baseball and also had no problem with NC State releasing Wilson from his scholarship given that they thought he had moved on to baseball.  State fans though are apparently, at least some that own card shops, are still seething over Wilson's final college season spent at Wisconsin.  For what it's worth Wilson has tried to smooth things over by saying "Pack of Badgers" when he is on Sunday Night or Monday Night Football giving credit to both Wisconsin and NC State.  

In the meantime, I did see Wilson play baseball and can say he was really raw.  He's a great athlete, but he also did not get a ton of playing time until later in the baseball season which seemed to hold him back.  His last minor league season was spent in Asheville, but I did not drive out to see him play, but ESPN did run a story about his baseball talents in January.  It's fun to think about what ifs, but will always really enjoy collecting Wilson's one baseball card which is a cheap and inexpensive cool card to add to your collection.   

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Greatest Baseball Logo Captured on Cardboard

Last year Topps put a Hak Ju Lee hat patch logo card in their Topps Pro Debut set featuring the Rays shortstop prospect as a Montgomery Biscuit.  The Biscuits are the Double-A team of the Rays, so many of the players on the Durham Bulls, the Rays Triple A team, played for the Biscuits at some point.  I missed out on the Hak Ju Lee card last year and in doing so, missed my chance to have a the Biscuits logo on cardboard.  Cool logo pictured below:

Who wouldn't want a card with a giant version of that logo pasted on the front?  Luckily, someone at Topps did not get the message that Hak Ju Lee was playing in Durham this season, or perhaps since they already had a Durham Bulls logo card of Alex Colome, Topps made the executive decision to demote Lee in his Pro Debut appearance this year.  Which ever way you decided it went down, the decision to keep Hak Ju Lee as a Biscuit for an additional year allowed me a chance at redemption.

2013 Topps Pro Debut Hak Ju Lee Hat Logo Patch 

I was actually worried for awhile that I was going to fail on my mission for a second straight year.  I found one copy of this card for trade, but the other collector was looking for a Hall of Fame autograph or "Yankee type autograph" in return.  This was my initial PM on trading for the Lee patch card:  

"Dude, you have some pretty sweet Yogi Berra autographs, I could do one of those for the Lee"   

After spitting out my beverage I countered with a "Yankee type" autograph of Joba Chamberlain or maybe a Brett Gardner.  Still waiting for a response by not holding my breath.  If he ever actually trades me the card I will do a give away on my Facebook or Twitter page.  

Eventually I narrowed my search down to Ebay where I promptly watched several auctions, but forgot about them and forgot to bid.  I found a Buy It Now, but it was significantly higher than the auctions and the final offer price of $14 was not going to hack it on this card.  Finally, I was paying attention last week and found a copy for less than $5.00 which is good since I am back to school this week.  No more day auctions.  

In the meantime, I am really pleased with my latest pick up.  I really like Hak Ju Lee as a player, but more importantly I really like the Montgomery Biscuits logo.  There are some pretty crazy minor logos and mascots, but this one has to be one of the best ever.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Never Popular Felt Baseball Card Set

Every once in awhile I have a hard time deciding whether a card set is genius or a complete flop.  Sounds funny, but sometimes I think there is a very thin line between the two.  Take for example the 2001 Upper Deck Legends of New York set.  I initially passed on buying anything from this product when it was first released since it just focuses on four teams which I do not particularly care for.  One of my local card shops had a box of this product sitting on its shelf were it sat for a long time.  At some point on some weekend several years after 2001 I talked the shop owner down on price and figured I might get lucky with something cool.  Luckily, I pulled a cool autograph.  

2001 Upper Deck Legends of New York Reggie Jackson Bat/Autograph 

While I was really happy to pull an autograph of Mr. October I was also really intrigued by the base set of cards which featured felt.  The stuff on pool tables and the lining of your glasses case on a baseball card.  Who would have thunk of that?  Obviously, somebody at Upper Deck had this idea and put it into motion with the Legends of New York set.  At first I thought the cards looked cool and I assembled a set.  There are four basic card designs in the set featuring cards of the four New York franchises: Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, and Giants.  

2001 Upper Deck Legends of New York Ron Darling

The card above shows the most basic design from the card set which is divided equally into quarters between the four teams.  The felt part of this card is the team logo on the right side of the card.  If you cannot tell from the initial glance at the card, the felt is actually shedding.  Like a dog, or a cat.  Which is really the lowlight to this set.  Have you ever considered vacuuming out a box of baseball cards?  

2001 Upper Deck Legends of New York Mickey Mantle 

I have never actually vacuumed out the box of cards with my Legends of New York set, but there is excess felt floating around the inside of the box.  The cards, like the Mantle above, with the felt square cut around the team logo seem to shed a little less than the basic logo card, but they still are not perfect. There is also a set of cards recognizing the teams Championships, or Banner Years, which has a felt script writing with the teams name on the front of the card.  Another big shedder.  

2001 Upper Deck Legends of New York Duke Snider

If you look around the world of baseball cards you will notice that there has not been another felt set of baseball cards since Upper Deck issued the Legends of New York set in 2001.  Card companies have dabbled with other materials, like Topps and their silk cards, but nothing in felt.  After looking back over this set I fully understand why card companies have not duplicated this design or concept since this product.  

Sounds like a flop, so how do they also border on genius?  

In working on my reorganization project, this was one of the first sets that I pulled and sorted.  Frankly, I was astonished at the response I received from my efforts to trade a lot of doubles.  There is something a small cult following with this set and there are collectors that will go all out in order to complete a sale or trade.  Not lukewarm, not those are cool looking let me think about it.  More like, let me email you my want list from the set and lets fill some holes.  If you search out single cards from the set on Ebay most list for more than $1 per card, with the Mantles and Sniders fetching several dollars.  Complete sets can actually settle in the $50 range.  Not bad for a $70 box of cards considering you are likely to get either a bat or autograph card too.  

When I starting pulling doubles and triples out of my sets I expected there to effort and interest from collectors on my extras from sets like the 2001 Topps Heritage set, but the Legends of New York?  I understand that the set features four teams with good collecting bases, but was shocked to trade off one lot of doubles and sell another lot and make as much as I did.  

So, what ever comes out of my collection in way of doubles and multiples is being redirected into good things, so the Legends of New York, minus Reggie-he stays, netted me three pretty nice cards:  

2013 Bowman Inception George Springer Jersey/Autograph 

2013 Bowman Inception Shelby Miller Autograph 

2013 Topps Tribute World Baseball Classic Ben Zobrist Autograph

Not a bad haul for a set and lot of duplicates from a felt baseball card set.  I am not completely sold on the World Baseball Classic cards, but the other two cards are solid adds.  Not that I am down on Zobrist, but I am not a huge fan of the actual WBC event, barely watched it this year.  The Miller autograph is on card, while the Springer is not, but are players that I like having in my collection.    

Complete Set: 2009 Topps All-Star Fan Fest Patches

The All-Star Fan Fest provides card collectors the chance to pick up some unique items for their collections.  One of the biggest draws at recent All-Star Games has been the annual release of a patch set which usually recognizes notable players in the game, or local legends recognized by the team hosting the All-Star game.  The sets started during the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco when Upper Deck released a set of cards only available at the Fan Fest event.  Since the Yankees, Cardinals, Royals, and Mets have all worked with Topps to put out a patch set.  

This years set looks really tough with a limited print run of 150 copies per card.  Oddly, this years set is half Mets and half Yankees.  Needless to say, the price tag on some of the cards from this year's set has been quite high.  Last year's Royals issue was also limited and featured Yu Darvish and Bryce Harper.  Those two cards are nearly impossible to find for less than $50.  However, somewhere in the not to distant past the All-Star Fan Fest patch cards were not serial numbered and the teams attempted to make more of a connection with their hometown crowd, rather than with the card collecting crowd.  

In 2009 the All-Star Game was played in my hometown of St. Louis where Topps made three Fan Fest Patches available to fans: Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, and Ichiro.  The Pujols card has an obvious St. Louis connection as the star player of the Cardinals at the time of the game.  The Howard card was put in the set since he is a St. Louis native, attended the same high school as David Freese, and still has a residence in the area.  Ichiro is a little bit more of a stretch, but a cool story and good connection to St. Louis and the baseball history of the town.  At the time of the All-Star game, which I did not attend, I was able to track down and trade for two of the three cards:  

2009 Topps All-Star Fan Fest Albert Pujols Patch 

2009 Topps All-Star Fan Fest Ryan Howard Patch

I was pretty content at the time with the two patches, but I have actually become a little bit of a closet Ichiro fan in recent years.  The Ichiro connection to St. Louis actually started in 2004 while he was chasing down the single season hits record in 2004.  The record had belonged to St. Louis Browns star George Sisler.  During the 2004 season the Mariners played an interleague series in St. Louis against the Cardinals and had the chance to meet Sisler's family.  The family took interest in Ichiro's pursuit of the hits record and flew all the way to Seattle to attend the game where Ichiro passed Sisler's old hits mark of 257.  

When the Cardinals were awarded the 2009 All-Star game Ichiro actually made plans to take the chance to meet up with Sisler's family again and even visited the grave site of the Browns Hall of Famer.  The attention that Ichiro brought Sisler's career and achievements was pretty cool and certainly well deserved since not many people spend time catching up on their St. Louis Browns history.  The Cardinals gave a tip of the cap to Ichiro by making sure he was included in the All-Star patch set.  

2009 Topps All-Star Fan Fest Ichiro Patch 

I was missing the Ichiro for the past several years and actually have seen the card numerous times, but just had never closed the deal, or won the auction, to add this to my collection.  Last week, I was able to spot one in the lead up to the All-Star game and quickly snatched it up helping me complete my Fan Fest All-Star Patch Set.  The set as a whole is not serial numbered and is actually not difficult to find.  The individual cards usually run less than $10 and the set can be had for between $20 and $30.  Great find considering that most of the more recent All-Star patch sets run more than $50 for a single card.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two More Bowman Inception Rays Autographs

I am working closer and closer to completing my Rays autograph set from Bowman Inception.  This week I was fortunate enough to add two more cool autographs to my set which puts me a Richie Shaffer away from having one autograph from all of the Rays in the set.  I might double back and try to pick up a few of the variations, but the Ascension Relics, which feature a jersey swatch from the players minor league stops, are pretty difficult to find.  I will at least give it a good effort.

2013 Bowman Inception Hak Ju Lee Jersey/Autograph

First up is another autograph of the Rays shortstop of the future Hak Ju Lee.  I have been able to add several Hak Ju Lee cards to my collection this season and am still counting him as a Durham Bull even though he is currently out for the season with torn ligaments in his knee.  Lee started his season by hitting better than .400 for the Bulls before his injuries landed him on the DL.  I am happy to see Topps finally put out a certified autograph of the slick fielding shortstop.

2013 Bowman Inception Felipe Rivero 

A new name for my Rays autograph collection: Felipe Rivero.  Currently, Rivero is pitching in the Florida State League, which is High A, for the Charlotte Stone Crabs.  Rivero is already in his fifth minor league season, but signed as a 16 year old international free agent.  He is only rated as the 17th best prospect in the Rays system, but the hard throwing left-hander made an appearance in last year's Futures Game and is viewed by many scouts as having "stuff", but apparently he needs a little bit of polish.  He actually appeared in both Bowman and Leaf products last year, so there are quite a few of his autographs floating around.  Most are under $5.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 Bowman Inception Jose Fernandez Autograph

I check out the Marlins every once in awhile to peek in on some at-bats by longtime Durham Bull Justin Ruggiano, Mike Stanton, and former Cardinal Placido Polanco.  While the Polanco at-bats have been painful to watch this year, I have actually enjoyed having a chance to watch the young fish play.  The results really do not show up in the standings, but there is a lot of good young talent out on the field in south Florida.  While most people are familiar with Mike Stanton, there are a few other names that are starting to pop up a little more frequently.

My favorite young Marlins player at the moment is probably Marcell Ozuna.  I have already picked up a card of his a few weeks ago.  A close second is right-handed rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez.  Many have talked about the star pitcher possibly being in the mix for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.  Currently, Fernandez sits with just a 5-5 record, but has an ERA under 3, a WHIP right around 1, and is averaging just about a strikeout per inning.  If I had a vote for Rookie of the Year I'd still probably go with Shelby Miller, but Fernandez is still definitely in the running.

I recently decided to look into the Fernandez card market to see if I could land myself a nice autograph. I was actually surprised to learn that he already has several nice autographs out, several on-cards, and that most can be had for $20 or less.  Given the fact that Fernandez has some notoriety, I was thinking that I would be out a little bit more.  So, for around $15 delivered I was able to land a pretty sweet autograph....

2013 Bowman Inception Jose Fernandez Autograph 

While it's not a rookie card, this Fernandez autograph is on-card and comes from a really nice set.  I've already added several Inception cards, but really like this one since it does not have the sticker autograph.  I acutally eyed several Fernandez rookie cards, before deciding to target this card, but was surprised to find that his 2011 Bowman rookie autographs actually do not run much more than this Inception autograph.  Of course, since it the colored parallels can get expensive, but I will keep a look out for one to add to my collection in the near future.

Monday, July 15, 2013

1998 Topps Stars & Steel Gold Ray Lankford

1998 Topps Stars & Steel Rafractor Ray Lankford 

I am having great luck this month finding new Ray Lankford cards for my collection.  I am usually doing really well if I can find one new Lankford card to add each month, but I am already at two for this month.  This card comes from the 1998 Stars & Steel set which was the Topps entry into the 90s metal card craze.  There were several other sets that featured metal cards during this time period.  Two of my favorites were the Leaf Preferred cards which had a metal inset set and Pinnacle Metal Works which were redemptions in the Pinnacle Xpress set and were the heaviest baseball cards ever.

The Topps Stars & Steel set ran for two years, 1998 and 1999, and were pretty high end for the late nineties.  Boxes only came with 12 packs with 3 cards per pack with no inserts, only parallels.  Since the set was 44 cards it basically took at least two boxes to assemble the complete set.  At the time the set was released I was surprised that Lankford made the checklist, but quickly added his base card from this set to my collection.  I have seen the Gold parallel several times, but have never found a price I was comfortable paying until this month.  I am still missing the Holographic Gold card, which combined the gold parallel along with the refractor concept.  They tend to be pricy, but I am always on the lookout.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

2013 Bowman Inception Jake Odorizzi Jersey/Autograph

2013 Bowman Inception Jake Odorizzi Jersey/Autograph 

Before the season, Odorizzi was rated as the Rays third best prospect behind Wil Myers and Taylor Guerrieri.  He has spent the majority of his season pitching the Bulls to a large first place lead in the International League's Southern Division, but has made a few spot starts for the Rays along the way.  Ordorizzi's starts in Tampa have been shaky, so I am guessing that he will probably spend most of the rest of the season hanging out in Durham.  I actually saw him pitch for the Bulls earlier in the week against the Norfolk Tides.  Pretty rough outing.  

This is my third Jake Odorizzi autograph of the year and the first relic card I have picked up of the Rays talented right-handed pitching prospect.  I've really enjoyed finding autographs out of the inaguaral release of Bowman Inception.  The cards look great and Topps has put in some really great prospects for collectors to chase down.  This Odorizzi card is a sticker autograph, it's tough to tell, and features a nice swatch of blue jersey.  The addition of this card puts me close to completing the basic set of Rays autographs from the Inception set.  A few more to go...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2012 Bowman Sterling George Springer Autograph

I have posted a few George Springer cards over the past few weeks and have really enjoyed collecting the Astros outfield prospect.  There are plenty of good Springer cards out on the market including plenty of good autographs.  I had started my Springer collection after he posted a .297/.399/.579 line with 19 homers and 23 steals in AA.  At the time he was being promoted up to the Astros AAA in Oklahoma City.  Since his promotion there has not been much of an adjustment period.  So far in PCL Springer has posted a .404/.507/.842 line with 7 homers and 5 steals.  It's only 70 at-bats, but clearly there is a lot of talent here.

Naturally, I was happy to add my third Springer autograph to my collection during the third month.  Like the other two Springers, this card from the Bowman Sterling set, features a sticker autograph.

2012 Bowman Sterling George Springer Autograph 

Of course I am still on the hunt for more Springer autographs and was thrilled to see Topps insert an autograph of him into the Bowman Inception set, but the pricing has started to tick up on his cards.  A month ago when I started hunting down Springer cards the market for his autographed cards was generally in between $10-$20.  Some of his harder to find, or unique cards, drifted north of $20.  However, I considered his cards very affordable for a top flight prospect.  Many of his basic autographs are now settling in around $20.  Premium autographs, such as the colored version of the Bowman Inception autograph, and his 2010 Bowman Autograph, are now selling between $40 and $50.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Shameless Plug for Sports Card Albums

I do not blog for profit, advertisements, and I rarely take up the time of my readers to plug products.  So, here's my ten second pitch for a cool new website I ran into on my Twitter page.  It's called Sports Card Album and is a great organizational tool for posting pictures of your cards.  Really easy to use and upload cards.  I've spent only a few minutes on it today, but I will be posting pictures of my cards here on a regular basis.  Highly recommended.

Complete Set: 2013 Topps Pro Debut

I am behind on my sets, so I will catch up a little bit today.  I also finished Topps 2 the other day, but that's even older news than this set.  Besides the Pro Debut set is fast becoming one of my favorite annual releases that Topps puts out on the market.  The line started in 2010 and has come along way since it's original release, so here's my take on this really cool and affordable product.

2013 Topps Pro Debut Kyle Parker

Staying true to form the base set of 2013 Topps Pro Debut uses the same design as the the base Topps set, but modified to fit the minor league teams.  So, unlike the Bowman cards, the minor league prospects in the set are all shown in the minor league uniforms.  I will admit that some of the Minor League masots and logos are goofy and a bit ridiculous, but I am still happy to have them in my collection. 

The base set consists of 220 cards and features a wide variety of players.  There are plenty of top tier prospects included in the set, such as Oscar Taveras, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts, but Topps also did a great job of including some cool fan favorites and veteran minor leaguers.  Although there is no Mike Hessmann card featured in this years set, there are plenty of other cool cards to collect from Pro Debut outside of the base set.  

2013 Topps Pro Debut Mascots Muddy the Mudcat

One of the most popular popular features of this year's Pro Debut set is the inclusion of the Mascot cards.  I've already showcased my Wool E. Bull card earlier in the week, but also managed to add a copy of Muddy the Mudcat to my collection.  Muddy is the odd looking mascot for Carolina Mudcats, who play outside of Raleigh in Zebulon, North Carolina.  They are currently the Indians high A team, but have also been the Marlins and Reds AA team within the past five years.  The mascot cards are very similar to the Upper Deck College Mascot cards with a cloth/fabric middle.  Pretty neat looking cards..

2013 Topps Pro Debut Hat Logo Patch Travis D'Arnaud

The Hat Logo Patch cards are also back into the Pro Debut set this year.  I've already picked up my copy of the the Durham Bulls card featuring pitcher Alex Colome, but I am also working on picking up a few of the other International League teams.  The hat logos cards were in high demand last year and I had to wait a long time to finally pick up one copy of a Tim Beckham card, but this seat of great looking cards is a little bit more reasonable in price this time around.  

2013 Topps Pro Debut Enny Romero Jersey Card

This most disappointing aspect of the Pro Debut set is the relic and autographed cards.  While the whole concept of jersey/bat/relic cards went stale long ago, the Topps Debut line has really made some nice jersey cards especially the jumbo jersey and patch pieces in the 2010 release.  Topps has scaled down the relic cards every year since, which leads to this year.  The jersey pieces are small, tend to all be blue, and are limited to a few players.  They are really inexpensive finds on Ebay if you have a favorite player featured in the set.  

2013 Topps Pro Debut Bralin Jackson Autograph 

The autographs are slightly better than the relic cards, but still leave a lot to be desired.  There are some good names in the autograph line, namely Oscar Taveras.  However, given that most of the autographs can be found for less than $5 on Ebay, there might be some good gambles here.  I have been going through and cleaning up some of the Rays prospects.  Maybe someday they will reach Durham, or better.  

Overall, this is a great product filled with some really good base cards and plenty of other goodies given the price of the box is only around $60.  The previous Pro Debut sets have held their value well and the hat logo cards and jumbo relics from previous years have thrived to the point where they can be difficult to find.  For example, I have spent the past three months trying to find a copy of the Hak Ju Lee hat logo card from 2012, but have only found one copy, which is selling for $25, on Check Out My Cards.  Pricy for a AAA shortstop.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

2013 Bowman Inception Wil Myers Jersey/Autograph

I've been looking around for a new Wil Myers autograph the past few weeks, but I have been patiently waiting for Topps to put out a piece of cardboard of the rookie right fielder in a Rays uniform.  Topps recently pushed out Bowman Inception which included such a card.  I was able to find a nice copy of the card quickly for a pretty reasonable price.

2013 Bowman Inception Wil Myers Jersey/Autograph 

Myers autographed cards are not always the cheapest to find, though they are plentiful, but it seems like the Rays cards are slowly trending down and are going to become more affordable.  The first copy of this card I found on Ebay sold for more than $70 which is a comparable price to his 2010 Bowman Chrome autographed rookie card.  Currently there are several copies floating around for less than $40.  In time I might have paid a high price for this card, but for the moment I am very comfortable meeting that price for a copy of Wil Myers autograph in a Rays uniform.

Reorganization Project Update

A few people have inquired about the reorganization project that I undertook roughly two months ago, so today I am going to walk you through what steps I am taking to improve my collection.  The basic premise of the project is to take my cards, which have been sorted into teams, and resort them into sets.  During this process I am trying to thin out some of my single cards by taking out the mass of doubles and use them as trade bait, or sell them and reinvest the money into quality single cards for my collection or fill the holes in sets which are close to complete.

I have started the project by breaking the 2000 and 2001 from my team boxes and sort them out into sets.  Within each set I break the cards into two piles.  One pile of cards I shape into the set and another pile of cards I shape into a stack of doubles.  It looks something like this:

The pile on the left is stack that I set up as the set and the stack on the right is my stack of doubles.  The insert cards within the set, minus relic and autograph cards, are sorted into the bottom of the set pile.  I inventory the set pile to see if I have a complete set and box the set if I do.  If I do not have a complete set I box the cards and mark the box with a sticky note showing the cards that I am missing to complete the set.  The doubles piles have been broken into lots for trade or sale.  In some cases I have two copies of the set which makes it easy to sell or trade.  In other cases I break the the doubles down by player and trade and sell, or just leave it as a partial set.  Either way, I have seen some good returns on the cards that I am taking out of my collection.  The final completed sets are then being stacked up to be placed back into my baseball card closet at the projects completion.

The autographed cards in my collection have also been reorganized slightly.  In the past I had sorted the inserts, relic cards, and autographed cards into boxes.  I have now taken the insert cards and sorted them back into the boxes with their set.  The relic cards are not a huge priority for me, most of the time, so I have sorted those into a set of boxes, and set aside a few hundred which I plan to sell or trade.  I am then taking the autograph cards and scanning the cards to have a picture of each autograph in my collection.

Sorry that my office is a tad bit sunny, but I scan the cards individually where they are then crop the scans and clean up the pictures as best I can.  I do not have the world's best scanner, but I save the pictures of the cards into a folder on my computer.  Cards which are not going to be written up on my blog are posted onto my Facebook page.

Once the cards are scanned and filed on my computer, I physically file the autographed cards away into my card boxes which are exclusively used for autographed cards.  Currently I have the cards in a handful of eight-hundred count boxes, but I plan on putting my autographs into two row shoeboxes once I get a solid handle on the exact number of autographs in my collection.  Currently, I am somewhere in the thousands.

Overall, the project is going well, but is going to take some serious time to complete.  When I started this project in May I was hoping the total process of thinning out and reorganizing my collection would take roughly one year, but I am open to possibly having to spend up to two years on this project.  Looking through my cards and sorting them out has been a blast, but I have underestimated how much time it would take to sort out some of the sets in my collection.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Final Vote in the National League goes to....

The National League candidate is a little bit easier to come up with than the American League candidate.  There are several deserving candidates, but in my mind there is one clear winner in amongst the finalist.  While some baseball traditionalist are not going to like this post, it's my opinion that the honor should go to Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.  I am aware of the argument that he somehow has not paid his dues, or has not played long enough this season, but I disagree.  First, a baseball card...

2013 Topps Pro Debut Yasiel Puig 

Now, I can be a tradition baseball guy and love some of the unwritten rules and nuances of the game, but I also recognize talent when I see it.  There are a few guys deserving of an All-Star game appearance from National League teams that are going to spend their All-Star breaks undeservedly sitting at home.  Yasiel Puig could potentially be in that group of players next week, but should not be.  So, lets tackle the time argument first.

The biggest knock against Puig going to the All-Star game is that he's played for the Dodgers during June and part of July.  Jonathan Papelbon insinuated that Puig had somehow not paid his dues because he's only played part of a season.   Where were these people last year when Mike Trout played May, June, and July?  Nobody complained about his selection to the All-Star team and everyone was quick to point out that Trout was one of the best young talents in the game and was enjoying one of the best rookie seasons in the history of the game.  In fact, I spent some time on Google and cannot find a single player, website, or blog that complained about Trout appearing in last summer's All-Star game.  None.

So Puig has about thirty days less time into the season than Trout.  Did you notice he is hitting over .400 with 16 extra base hits, an on-base percentage of .441, and an OPS of 1.101.  I don't care that he's only played a month and a half, how many players in Major League Baseball have put those numbers up in a month this season?  None.  How many active players in Major League Baseball have put up numbers like over a single month? Few.  So, if you are a stats guy there really is no argument despite the fact that his window in the league this season has been somewhat limited.  The limited window is unprecedented and extraordinary.  Like Trout last season, you know when nobody was complaining about service time.

Let's take on one more tradition baseball notion.  I remember the last season that Ozzie Smith played in 1996 and how he got to go to the All-Star game, enter the game as a pinch hitter, and get a standing O from the crowd in Philadelphia.  Ozzie was not the Cardinals starting shortstop that season and only had 101 at-bats at the All-Star game with a .267 average and an OPS of .638.  Why did Ozzie get to go to the All-Star Game?  I think most baseball traditionalist would agree that Ozzie got to the All-Star game as part of his farewell tour.  He was a Hall of Fame player and at that point in his career fans did not care that he was riding the pine behind Royce Clayton, they wanted to see Ozzie.  He was a great player and a fan favorite.  So, what's this got to do with Puig?  

There are many traditional baseball people that are willing to make exceptions for guys like Ozzie.  Sure, he's barely played and is not even really the starting player at his position on his team, but heck it's Ozzie Smith.  How many people remember the Cal Ripken thing in 2001 during his last All-Star game?

How many people remember he was hitting .252 with three home runs when he was selected to the team in 2001?  Everyone just simply remembers the fact that he hit a home run and won the MVP award.  Old guys catch breaks because fans love them and want to see them one last time.  Why doesn't the fence swing both ways on this issue?  If old guys who do not have the numbers to actually make the All-Star game get in, then why don't young guys, with or without name recognition, get to play when their numbers are superior?    

Honestly, how many people have actually stayed up and watched the guy play?  As a baseball fan living in the Eastern Time Zone I admit it is a difficult thing to do, but I have taken time the past few weeks to take some extra time to peek in on a few Dodgers games.  Puig is a fun guy to watch.  Home runs, hustle, running into walls, great other words a person that every baseball fan should get to see.  What better stage to do that then the All-Star game?  He's energized the Dodgers from a group of overpaid veterans wallowing in the cellar of the N.L. West to a potential playoff contender two games out of first.  

As a Cardinals fan I think about it this way: The All-Star game counts for home field advantage in the World Series.  I know it's a stupid idea, but thats the way the world works right now.  The Cardinals are currently in first place in their division and have an excellent shot at making the playoffs this season.  Once you get into the playoffs anything can happen, but I like my teams chances.  However, the advantage of getting the extra home game is crucial.  Did Prince Fielder get a ring and a World Series share for his three-run home run that won the 2011 All-Star game for the National League?  I am guessing he did not, but the Cardinals could not have won that pennant without Prince.  So, as the fan of a contending team I want the best team and players possible for my league.  That's why my final vote goes to the guy hitting .400 with power: #votepuig  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Final All-Star Vote in the American League Goes To....

I generally stick to the baseball card posts and mix in some statistics and occasional qualitative data that I collect while watching baseball, but this afternoon I am going to make a post which is 95% not about baseball cards.  The 5% of this post which is baseball card related will just be a picture of a baseball card showing the player whom I feel is truly deserving of the final All-Star spot for the American League.  Of course, there will be a similar post at some point tomorrow about a player in the National League.  So, hopefully your eyes have been reading the words in my post and you will be surprised when you see my picture of.....

Rays pitcher Alex Torres is my choice.  Of course the real final player vote in the American League is between a group of good middle relief pitchers, but I feel that my choice has merit.  I know Alex Torres may not be a household name, or one that comes up very often in the discussion of good players around the league, but Torres is having a great season.  Great might actually be selling it short.  

I have a long history with Alex Torres since he has spent parts of the last three seasons on the Durham Bulls.  Most of his time in AAA has been spent as a starter with a reputation for lots of strikeouts and some bouts of wildness.  During the 2011 season Torres lead the International League in strikeouts averaging more than one per inning.  Last season he appeared in 26 games for the Bulls striking out more than a batter per inning again, but also almost walking a batter per inning too.  Not good.  

Given the struggles of Torres in 2012, I was not surprised to see him resurface in Durham at the beginning of the season.  However, this time around in AAA Torres was dominating in 9 starts posting 61 strikeouts in 46 innings while walking only 21 batters and giving up less than a hit per inning.  By the middle of May Torres received a well deserve call up to Tampa to add depth to their bullpen.  The results have been incredible.

In roughly two months of play Torres has appeared in 14 games for the Rays out of the bullpen covering a total of 25 innings for the team.  During that time Torres has continued his trend of striking out more than a batter per inning racking up a total of 31 or 11.2 per nine.  More impressive is Torres WHIP of 0.56 which breaks down to 8 walks, which looks nice next to the 25 innings pitched, and an incredible 6 hits.  That's not a typo, 6 hits allowed in almost two months of games.  

A few additional Torres nuggets of gold:

+0 home runs allowed 

+Left handed hitters are batting a whopping .100 against Torres

+Right handed hitters are batting .056 

+Torres has allowed a total of one hit all year with a runner in scoring position

+With 2 outs and runners in scoring position hitters are batting .000 against Torres striking out 50% of the time

+22 at-bats have been taken against Torres in "late and close" situations: Torres has surrendered 1 hit 

+AL East teams are batting .111 against Torres in 45 at bats 

If you were managing the American League All-Star team knowing that the game could earn your team possible home field advantage in the World Series why would you not want a pitcher like Torres sitting in your bullpen ready to get a few tough outs?  If it were my decision I would take the Rays talented left-hander to New York for the a well deserved All-Star game appearance.  

2013 Topps Pro Debut Hat Logo Patch Alex Colome

2013 Topps Pro Debut Hat Logo Patch 

Topps has put out a Pro Debut set the past few years and it has quickly become one of my favorite sets to put together every year.  Bowman has typically been the set for minor league baseball fans to find their favorite players from the minor, but Topps often takes the players pictures during Spring Training while the players are wearing their Major League uniforms.  Or they just air brush them into their Major League unis.  The Pro Debut set on the other hand captures Minor Leaguers in their Minor League digs.  For me, Pro Debut means getting to see a few of my favorite Durham Bulls players in their Bulls uniform, not a Rays uniform.  The Bulls are one of the most iconic Minor League franchises and the Rays run a great farm system, so it seems like a slam dunk that some sort of Bulls player, or the mascot, make an appearance in this set.

There are several Bulls cards in this years Pro Debut set including a card in the Hat Logo Patch set.  This hat logo card sort of speaks for itself.  It's a great looking card, featuring a very good prospect in Alex Colome, and is limited to just 75 copies.  The Bulls also had a card in this set last year with infielder, and former number one overall pick, Tim Beckham.  The Hat Logo in this years set features pitching prospect Alex Colome.  While he is a high rated prospect in the Rays system, Colome has flown under the radar this year in large part due to the emergence of Chris Archer and Wil Myers.

Colome has actually appeared as a starter in three games for the Rays this season posting a 1-1 record with an ERA of 2.25 and 12 strikeouts in 16 innings.  Colome has also performed well in the International League this season with the Durham Bulls despite having a 4-6 record.  In fourteen starts for the Bulls this year Colome has more than a strikeout per inning and has only surrendered five home runs all season.  While I do not think he has as high of a ceiling as Archer, I think that Colome certainly has a bright future as a successful Major Leaguer.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Complete Set: 2013 Topps Series 2 Cut To The Chase Set

I have been a little bit slow in assembling some of my cards for the second half of my 2013 Topps set.  There have been several new card releases over the past several weeks and I guess that some set had to take a backseat to the others.  It would not be a calendar year without a Topps set, so I have started looping back to finish up Series 2.  One of my favorite parts of the set this year is the Cut To The Chase set which was also featured in the Series 1 of the 2013 Topps set.  

This great looking die cut set features another group of 24 cards.  The second series goes back and picks up the first card in the set, Mike Trout, who was oddly left out of the first series, and then adds cards 24 and 26 through 48.  A bit confusing with the card numbers, but high on style points.   There are some great cards here, so let me pick out two cards to talk about during this post.  I will go with my top card and the card that I would replace.  Best card first:

2013 Topps Cut To The Chase Rickey Henderson 

There are actually several Hall of Fame cards in the second series of the Cut To The Chase set, but for my money this Rickey Henderson card is the best of the lot.  Topps really does a great job focusing on the history of the game and produces a lot of cardboard with Hall of Famers.  However, Rickey seems like he does not make too many appearances.  He's one of the best players from my lifetime, and while I saw him as a Padre and Met, it was still fun to see him play.  

Further, this Rickey card does a great job of capturing him as a player.  He's wearing an A's uniform and he is running.  Sure Topps might have upped the card a little bit if they had found a shot of him sliding into a base, but that's hard to do on a vertical card.  I also have noted that Rickey is pictured wearing white batting gloves and not neon green.  Still a cooler card than Seaver, Koufax, or the other Hall of Famers in this set.  

2013 Topps Cut To The Chase Matt Holliday 

I am going to shock people a little bit today and say that Matt Holliday probably does not belong in this set.   I know that collectors will point out that Yoenis Cespedes is also included in this set, but he still gets a little break for being a highly sought after younger player in the baseball card world.  I am sure that someone at Topps probably thought it would be nice to make a Holliday card since he has generally been a pretty consistent performer at a high level for the past decade with the Cardinals, Rockies, and A's.  I agree with the sentiment, but if I were assembling a set with the top dozen current players or so, half of the players in this set are retired, I think I could choose someone a little bit better than Holliday.  

So, I do I propose replace Holliday in this set?  The best player on the Cardinals: Yadier Molina.  Similar to Rickey Henderson, Molina is often greatly underrepresented in the world of cardboard.  While the Cardinals are committed to Matt Holliday for the long term, the team has also recently signed Molina to a new five year contract.  Further, Molina leads the National League in hitting with a .346 average and ranks 10th in the league in WAR.  All while playing Gold Glove caliber defense.  Sure, I love Matt Holliday and have posted plenty of his cardboard on here during the past year and a half.  Sometimes it would be nice to see Topps branch out a little and give credit where credit is due.  Now, if I had the photoshop skills of some of those bloggers who post their own custom cards I could show you how the Molina card would look, until then you will just have to imagine.  

2010 Bowman Platinum George Springer Jersey/Autograph

I started my George Springer collection just a few short weeks ago, but have only added one autograph of the Astros outfield prospect to my collection before last week.  Over the weekend, my second autograph of the top prospect arrived in my mailbox.  Similar to my previous Springer autograph, this card features him in his USA Baseball team uniform.  In fact, I am finding that most of his early cards are from the former UConn Huskies time with the USA Baseball National College team.  This particular card is also from 2010, but hails from the Bowman Platinum set.

2010 Bowman Platinum George Springer Jersey/Autograph 

The USA Baseball team was featured throughout the 2010 Bowman Platinum set and is worth a little bit of your time as a collector.  Beyond Springer, the set also features Jackie Bradley Jr, Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray, Nolan Fontana, Sean Gilmartin, and Alex Dickerson.  All good upcoming prospects and worthy of picking up for your collection.  The autograph cards in the set are stickers, like the 2010 Topps USA Baseball set, but the cards still seem to hold their value pretty well.  The Bradley card often sells for between $25 and $30, Cole in the mid $20s, and Springer cards sells for $10-$15.  While the Bradley cards have taken off in value, the Springer and Cole have held steady and offer a good value to collectors looking to add their signatures.