Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard-#40 Craig Biggio

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
Craig Biggio

1988 Score Rookie/Trade Craig Biggio RC

Hobby Impact-
This is one of the most underrated players within the baseball card hobby during my 30 years of collecting.  I will get into the on-field stuff in a couple of minutes, but I am not sure why he's not a little bit more popular and respected around the industry.  I've always thought two things worked against Biggio around the hobby.

1. All of his rookie cards are from late 80s releases which were the junkiest of junk wax.  His 1989 Upper Deck rookie is a pretty nice card, but the rest are easily found for less than $5.  Nice graded versions do not even cost that much in comparison to other rookie cards of Hall of Fame players

2. Biggio played for the Astros.  The team had a great run and were highly competitive throughout much of Biggio's career.  He played with other great talent.  Why do people ignore the Astros?  Show me a good player whose been on the Astros (minus Nolan Ryan) and I will show you someone that baseball card collectors completely undervalue.  Bagwell, Berkman, etc, etc, etc.

Biggio also has not been a bigger certified autograph guy over the course of his career.  He has some autographs floating around, but they are always numbered and always fairly limited.  The Biggio autographs have always held their value well and are usually in pretty high demand around the hobby if you have one you are willing to part with.  In fact, one of my favorite autographs I have ever pulled was a.....

2001 Donruss Signature Craig Biggio Autograph

I am not sure I had ever seen a Biggio autograph before I pulled this from out of a Donruss Signature pack, but I was really happy to see this card.  I am not thrilled its a sticker autograph, but many of the early 2000s Biggio autographs are stickers for Donruss products.  More recently Biggio has started signing for Topps and has signed several on-cards autographs.

On The Field Impact-
Biggio was an All-Star catcher, second baseman, and outfielder.  During his time with the Astros the team went to the postseason five times including the team's only World Series appearance in 2005.  Biggio also reached 3,000 hits, had over 600 career doubles, stole more than 400 bases, and had more than 250 home runs.  Pretty unique skill set.

Biggio seems like a slam dunk Hall of Famer to me with a quick check of Baseball Reference you will find that Biggio's 10 most similar batters include eight Hall of Famers plus Lou Whiatker and Johnnny Damon.  Not bad company.  While the JAWS system ranks him as the fourteenth best second baseman, he spent several years playing other positions which took away from his overall position ranking.

Favorite Card-
I did not have a Biggio card that stuck out in my mind before I did my countdown list and came up with my cards to put into my posts, but after flipping through my stack of Biggio cards I found one that seemed a little bit than the rest.  One thing I always remember about Biggio was his leg kick.  Always had it through his whole career, but for whatever reason MLB does not post videos of Biggio.  Kind of whack.  So, here's my coolest Biggio card-

1997 Upper Deck Craig Biggio

Biggio leg kick and shin guard.  Grass stain.  The bat is a little bit low on pine tar for Biggio and the batting helmet is a little on the clean side, but overall this is a really good picture of Biggio batting.  If you are looking for another cool Biggio card I'd look at a 1989 Donruss or a 1992 Upper Deck card.  Hard to beat Biggio as a catcher.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I Feel Dirty Owning This Card.

We are down to the last day of the regular season and I am really close to conquering the 2013 Cardinals roster in certified autographs.  Molina, Beltran, Wainwright, Matt Holliday, etc, etc, etc.  I have them all.  There are a few players with no certified autographs such as Tony Cruz, Randy Choate, Kevin Seigrist, and Trevor Rosenthal.  So, I am down to two missing autographs which belong to backup outfielder Shane Robinson and seldom used pitcher Sam Freeman.  

Robinson has several autographs in the 2005 Upper Deck USA Baseball set including one with teammate Jon Jay.  I am still working on tracking down a copy, but if I cannot find one there are single signed cards of the fourth outfielder.  That leaves Sam Freeman.  Well...

Sam Freeman autographs are pretty easy to find and they are really cheap.  I just lack a little bit of enthusiasm in adding this card to my collection.  The Freeman autograph comes from the 2008 Donruss Elite college set, which I have stated is a personal favorite, except for Sam Freeman.  Let's take a look at everything that is wrong with this card...

2009 Donruss Elite Sam Freeman Autograph 

This card goes downhill from the top with the appearance of the Jayhawk on Sam's hat and the word Kansas written across his chest.  Of course, there is the Big XII (UT-Austin Conference) Conference patch on the side of Freeman's jersey.  Luckily, this card cost me a whole dollar which is the price I would expect to pay for a Kansas baseball card.  

An intersting quirk to this card is the fact that Sam Freeman played four years of college baseball, but only played one year at KU.  He started out at a community college in Texas and then went to KU.  Freeman was drafted by the Cardinals, did not sign, and played his senior year at Marshall.  The Cardinals drafted Freeman again.  So, that means that the year this card was made Freeman was actually a member of the Thundering Herd.  Why is he a Jayhawk on his baseball card?  I can handle a Marshall card and would have picked up a Freeman autograph sooner if he was pictured in their uni.  

Yes, as an NC State alum I am not a huge fan of the Tar Heels either, but I do respect the job that Mike Fox does with their baseball team.  UNC is also a really good school.  Kansas?  I don't think so.  As a long time resident of Missouri there is nothing more annoying than Kansas.  And their baseball team?  You like Tom Gorzelanny?  Steve Jeltz?  Hardly anyone does.  Somewhat happy to fill a whole in my collection and a little disappointed that it has come down to adding a Jayhawks card.  

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard-#41 Ozzie Smith

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
Ozzie Smith

1979 Topps Ozzie Smith RC

Hobby Impact-
Ozzie Smith has always had a pretty good following in spite of the fact that he was a defense first player for the first half of his career.  Sometime in the mid 80s Ozzie started doing a little more hitting, but I am still often amazed at how popular the Wizard is around the hobby.  His rookie card is the star of the 1979 Topps set and is a pretty good chase card around Ebay and other seconday market sites.  The condition of the cards, centering and corners, can be rough at times.  Clean, well-centered copies are definitely at a premium.  I own several copies of the card and do not think I have one copy with good centering.  For example, the copy above is shifted slightly right.  Really common occurrence with this card.  Someday I will track down a really nice copy.

Ozzie Smith retired from baseball after the 1996 season, but still frequently appears in newer baseball releases.  Just this year Topps put Ozzie in several of its 2013 including Gypsy Queen, Allen & Ginter, Topps Archives, and Topps Tier One.  I am always amazed at well his cards still sell and how competitive bidding gets on Ebay over Ozzie cards.  In fact, I would guess with the passing of Stan Musial this past year, collectors might see more and more of Ozzie Smith in some of the Topps releases.  Topps always has Cardinals in their sets, and with Red Schoendienst slowing on his signing, I am going to guess that Ozzie will fill the void.

On The Field Impact-
Ozzie was the best defensive player of his generation and probably the best defensive shortstop ever.  It always slays me when people argue with me over whether Omar Vizquel is better than Ozzie.  Please.  Jeter too.  The JAWS rating system ranks the Wizard as the 8th best shortstop of all-time ahead of all modern shortstops not named Alex Rodriguez.  Omar is not even in the top 25.

Defense is always hard to quantify, so here are two stats that I love about the Wizard:

1.  He is the all-time assists leader for shortstops.  Omar Vizquel played five more seasons than Ozzie and is still almost 700 assists behind him.  Jeter has played the same amount of time and is a mere 2000 assists away.

2.  He's the all-time leader in defensive WAR by 4 points.  4 points.  4 points.  That's 14 more points than Omar Vizquel and I stopped looking for Jeter on the list after I passed by Clint Barmes.

Here's some video evidence of how awesome Ozzie was:

I also suggest finding a video of the Curt Ford catch where he dives over a diving outfielder to catch a ball.  Might be better than the one above.

As previosuly stated, Ozzie was not always a good offensive player during his career.  He was a pretty good bet to do a little running, but generally kept the ball on the ground.  While he was not a flashy offensive player, he certainly picked his moments to come through with the bat.  My favorite all-time Ozzie Smith play came during the 1985 National League Championship Series.  Good time to hit your first career left-handed home run.

Favorite Card-
I could do a top ten list on cool Ozzie Smith cards, but if I had to pick one card which summed up the player that was Ozzie Smith I would go with his 1991 Fleer Ultra card.

There are way too many Ozzie Smith cards where he has a bat in his hands.  Way too many.  The guy was the Wizard because of his fielding.  Outside of his 1987 Topps card, I think almost ever Topps base issue card of him from the 80s and early 90s featured him with a bat in his hands.  I would have loved to have seen a card of Ozzie laying out for a ball hit up the middle.  Something.  Anyway, this card was a good choice because you have got Ozzie jumping for a ball (you know he caught it) and he is playing in Wrigley.  Cool card.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Repeat Cards

Somedays I see really cool cards that I already have in my collection.  I often pass them by and go on with my day and do not give them a second thought.  This past week I ran into a collector who was shopping around a few nice cards.  Amongst the cards in his photo album was a nice looking Stan Musial seat card from the 2011 Topps Heritage set.  It looked nice, but I picked up a copy of this card a few years back.

So what to do?  My first inclination was to pass and move on, but how often do you run into a sweet Stan Musial card.  I asked about the price and settled on a few nice Rockies autographs.  So, for the second time I added this great looking card to my collection.

2011 Topps Heritage Stan Musial Seat Relic 

My trading partner found a small Larry Walker jersey at the last moment and offered a few Cardinals cards, but again ran into a bunch of cards that are already in my collection.  I will go double on Stan, but there are limits on Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay.  We were switched over to looking at some Rays and USA Baseball cards when he offered a sweet card I could not pass up.  It's also a double.

2011 Topps USA Baseball Marcus Stroman Triple Jersey/Autograph 

I picked up a copy of this card almost a year and a half ago in another trade.  Stroman starred locally at Duke and also appeared for the USA College Team which is also here locally in Cary.  I love the look of these cards, so it obviously was an attractive option when it popped up in the discussion.  However, I have also been really impressed by Stroman's performance in the Blue Jays system and do not mind having a few extra cards of his hanging out.  Stroman pitched for Toronto's Double-A team in New Hampshire posting a winning record of 9-5 with an ERA of 3.30, more than a strikeout per inning, and a WHIP of 1.12.  Really impressive.  

So, while I do not like to take on doubles in trades and am not going to make a habit of it, I guess that some cards are nice enough to be an exception to the rule.  A nice Stan Musial card is worth a little rule bending and so is the awesome Marcus Stroman card.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

More Goodness From the Vault

One of my favorite Durham Bulls players, Leslie Anderson, has almost zero cards out on the market.  It's actually not quite zero.  More like one.  The Rays signed Leslie Anderson after he defected while playing for the Cuban National Team.  At the time of his defection, Anderson was 28, and was starting off at the bottom of the Rays organization playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs.  Topps captured him in his Stone Crabs uni and included him in their 2010 Pro Debut set.  His only card.

So, as a fan of Leslie Anderson I guess you could say that my collection of his card revolves around the team sets sold at the Ballpark Cornerstore and finding the parallels of the Pro Debut card on Ebay.  Well, this week I was fortunate enough to land a really cool Leslie Anderson card.  I can honestly say, my collection may very well be complete.  Really.

I found the front proof, blank back, of the Topps Pro Debut card.  Topps often sells them on their Topps Vault account on Ebay.  This card was actually bought by someone and then resold.  For $9.  I was happy to have a one of a kind card of a one of a kind card.  Here's a look at the front proof which Topps sealed in a plastic case.

2010 Topps Pro Debut Blank Back Proof Leslie Anderson

Topps also sells the back proofs of cards on the Topps Vault, so maybe one day I can put the two proofs together and have the complete set of 1/1.  The blank back of the card features a Topps hologram with a serial number, certificate came with the card, and a 1/1 stamp.  

Leslie Anderson has been on the Durham Bulls the past four seasons and there is little hope that the Rays will actually call him up for a cup of coffee.  While I would love to see him stick around and play another season with the Bulls I think he might go somewhere seeking a chance at some playing time in the Majors.  In a lot of ways Anderson reminds me a lot of Justin Ruggiano.  He's not going to be an everyday player if he ever sticks in the Majors (Ruggiano should not get 400 ABs in a season), but could be a nice player to stick into certain situations.  Spring will tell.  In the meantime, I am off to find the back proof of this card.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Top 50 Players on Cardboard-#42 Mike Schmidt

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
Mike Schmidt

1973 Topps Mike Schmidt

Hobby Impact-
Schmidt has always been a pretty popular player collect across the hobby.  One of the most feared hitters of the 70s and 80s and a class act.  Schmidt earned a good following, not only with Phillies fans, but across the hobby with fans across baseball.  As a Cardinals fan, I remember Schmidt being one of the first autographs I added to my collection in the late 90s when I started to really get into finding certified autographs.

I am not a huge fan of Schmidt's rookie card.  Ron Cey is okay.  John Hilton?  Hmmm.  As cool as the 70s and 80s prospect cards were to collectors something about them always bothered me about these cards when they would include a really scrubby player.  It's not like these cards were like the Bowman cards of today and Topps was projecting players out from Rookie League and A Ball.  Topps has done several reprints of this card in Topps Archives sets and they always cut off Cey and Hilton.

The coolest thing about Schmidt in my opinion is his autograph.  Schmidt is one of those guys who takes a lot of pride in what he signs and how he signs it.  Take five minutes on Ebay to scroll through some Mike Schmidt autographs and you will be hard pressed to find one that is the least bit shaky.  In fact, Schmidt spent a little bit of time last year blasting modern players for their poor and hard to read signatures.  Here's a look at one of his autographs.

2002 Topps Team Legends Mike Schmidt Autograph

On The Field Impact-
As stated earlier, Schmidt was the most feared power hitter of the seventies and eighties.  The Phillies third baseman won a total of 8 home run crowns during his eighteen year career.  His totals for his home run titles were as low as 31 in the strike shorted 1981 season and as high as 48 in 1980 on the way to helping the Phillies win their first World Series.  While it seems commonplace for power hitters to slug thirty home runs out in a season nowadays, Schmidt hit his thirty home runs when the number was still an impressive plateau.

In fact, when Schmidt hit his 500th home run the feat had only been accomplished a dozen times.  The size of the 500 home run club doubled after Schmidt's retirement.  Besides the home runs, Schmitty also picked up ten Gold Glove awards and also managed to snag three MVP awards.  The JAWS rating system has him rated as the best third baseman of all-time.  Here's a look at Schmidt's sweet home run swing on the final dinger of his career.

Favorite Card-

1977 Topps Mike Schmidt

This is my well loved 1977 Topps Mike Schmidt card.  It's always been my favorite Mike Schmidt card.  I remember seeing Schmidt play when I was a kid, but he was an old guy by that point.  The prime of Schmidt's career really happened when I was probably a little bit too young to remember much about him.  Despite being a little too young, I think this card gives a good picture of Schmidt in his prime.  The shaggy air, cool 70s mustache.  I dig the powder blue Phillies uniform with the cool bi-centenntianal patch and zipper.  I think the Phillies were the only team to wear uniforms with zippers.  Maybe.  The batting gloves are also clearly from yesteryear and the bat is an older style Rawlings Power Stick with the color ring much lower.  I am pretty sure this card was taken in Shea Stadium, powder blues were road jerseys, and the background shows a triple deck on the stadium.  Really cool card in my opinion.

Jon Jay. One More Time. Last Time?

The 2013 season is winding down and I am ready to watch the postseason drama.  I have a break coming up from work, so I am going to have a great time staying up late and checking out some of my favorite teams in the postseason.  The Cardinals are my main cheering interest, but I will also watch all of my favorite ex-Durham Bulls on the Rays and will also keep up with the Tigers for my family in Michigan.  I have learned to expect the unexpected over the years during the postseason, so I am not going to play the role of prognosticator in my blog space.  I pick which ever team is hot.  See last year's Giants, 2011 Cardinals, 2010 Giants, etc, etc.

Heading into the postseason, there seems to be a lot of future change hovering over my teams of interest.  I guess the Rays situation with David Price is the most intriguing, but I am going to save that one for another post.  The Cardinals situation is interesting too.  The team currently is playing Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran, and Matt Holliday as their regular outfielders, but they have also mixed in Allen Craig to give Matt Adams at bats at first base.  Throw in top prospect Oscar Taveras in Triple-A Memphis and you've got a crowded outfield.

Who stays and who goes?  Beltran is a free agent, but he's hitting almost .300 with over 20 homers and 80 some RBIs.  Pretty good production for an old guy with shaky knees.  I honestly think they bring him back.  Considering the Cardinals had played Taveras in centerfield this year leads me to believe that we are likely at the end of the road with Jon Jay.  I would guess that the team mixes Taveras, Beltran, Holliday, and Craig in the outfield next season.  Don't get me wrong, I like Jon Jay and can appreciate the fact that he was a key contributor to the 2011 World Championship team and the NLCS team last year.  This was one of my favorite Jay catches.


I will be happy with Jay as a Cardinal beyond this year, but I do not see why the team would choose to keep him around given the other options they have on the Major League club an in the farm system.  Collection wise Jay has always been a pretty fun to collect, a great and frequent signer, and an inexpensive Cardinals player with lots of cardboard.  I would guess that Jay will not have an autograph in Triple Threads or any of the remaining Topps products which means that his Tier One Autograph is likely his last Cardinals autograph.  

2013 Topps Tier One Jon Jay Autograph 

This Tier One autograph is one of the easier cards to find from the set at almost 300 print runs.  The autograph is an on card signature with Jay trademark JJay 'graph.  Most copies of this card run less than $5.  Here's hoping for a few more Jon Jay autographs, doubting that he's a Cardinal past this card.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Top 50 Players on Cardboard #43-Sammy Sosa

My Top 50 Players on Cardboard
Sammy Sosa

1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa

Hobby Impact-
The first steroid guy on my list of players.  Ten to fifteen years ago Sosa would have easily been on the top half of this list, but time has changed how many view the home run hitters of the late 90s and early 2000s.  Most within the hobby have followed suit and jumped of the bandwagons of players like Sosa. Sosa may have more valuable cards than the players on my list up to this point, he may have more than players listed in the coming days and weeks, but Sammy's demand and popularity have taken a nose dive.  Of course, with Sammy, it was sometimes more than just steroids that made him look bad...

Sosa cards are still fairly collectable and nice graded copies of rookie cards and his autographs will cost collectors a pretty penny.  Anything beyond those two items is usually a slow mover and has dropped significantly in value.

At one point I had a pretty nice Sosa collection.  I started adding some of his cards after the 1998 Home Run race and held onto them past the 2003 season.  Sadly, I sold many of the cards at a loss which was a smaller loss than if I tried to sell the same cards today.

On The Field Impact-
I should just post a video of Sosa hitting a home run....

Please note the trademark bunny hop.  Sammy hit home runs.  That's all.  On to my favorite part of my Sammy Sosa post...favorite card.  Really good.

Favorite Card-
What can I say about my favorite Sammy Sosa card?  If the Louvre had to display one autographed baseball card as artwork a Sammy Sosa autographed card could possibly be picked.  I was trying to find a video of Sammy Sosa actually signing an item and could not actually find one.  I have seen Sammy sign something in person.  It takes awhile.

2001 Upper Deck eVolve Sammy Sosa Autograph 

Back to the top of the post.  Sosa card values have plummeted. When I redeemed this card in 2001 I am pretty sure that I could have easily sold it for more than $100.  By 2004, not so much.  It looked really cool though, so it stayed in my collection.  Today, collectors with lots of patience can easily find a Sosa autograph for around $50.  If you have to have one now then it might run somewhere in the $60-$75 range.  Pricy autograph, but a tip of the cap to Sammy for signing things the right way.

FYI-Sammy's at-bat walk up music of choice: The Pointer Sisters.  Here's what it sounds like when Russian people cover I'm So Excited.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Impressive Ray

I made a post last week about a pair of new Rays I was thinking about collecting with a strong leaning towards pitcher Enny Romero.  A few marathon games against the Orioles this weekend actually landed the young phenom a starting gig in this afternoon's series finale in Tampa.  I was excited to watch the game, but the awesomeness of the Major League blackout rules prevented me from actually viewing.

The ESPN Gamecast helped me keep track of Romero's four and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball which helped keep the Rays in the hunt for the American League Wild Card race.  The game also made it nearly impossible for the Orioles to make a return appearance to the post season.  Given the impressive performance this afternoon by Romero I am going to go ahead and post my latest pick up from the Rays rookie left-hander.

2011 Bowman Chrome Enny Romero Autograph 

As I said in my previous Enny Romero post, he has very few "hit" cards out on the market.  Before this week he basically had two relics cards and an autograph card.  Topps did release their Minor League version of Heritage this week which does feature another Romero relic card as a Montgomery Biscuit.  Obviously I really the autograph card the best, but it also does not hurt the card to be from the 2011 Bowman set which is a really strong autograph list.  

Romero seems to have a really inconsistent signature, but I think a lot of it has to do with the pen he used to sign the cards.  Hand sign items on Ebay seems pretty strong and consistent, but his Bowman autographs are a little bit streaky looking and the loop seems to fade on cards.  I am happy to own this card, but might have to look around for another copy with a better signature.  

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard #44 Don Mattingly

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
Don Mattingly

1984 Topps Don Mattingly RC

Hobby Impact-
He's a Yankee who was a pretty good player.  That is always worth quite a bit around the world of baseball cards.  Growing up, the Don Mattingly rookie cards were always pretty good cards to own.  For years I had a copy of the 1984 Topps card, but the bottom left corner had a tear over his picture.  Sometime in college I found a cheap box of 1984 Topps cards and busted them open.  I was pumped to land a good copy of the Mattingly rookie.  I've added the Donruss and Fleer at some point over the years too.  Mattingly rookies are not the most valuable cards in the world, but they are pretty darn popular.

Mattingly's popularity in the hobby extends beyond his rookie cards.  He's one of the few 80s stars whose base cards will sell slightly above junk wax prices and there is good demand on some of his 90s inserts.  In fact, his 90s inserts not only sell, but they actually draw a pretty good price.  I remember trying to put together the 1994 Flair Hot Gloves set a few years back.  Last card I need was Don Mattingly.  Hard to find.  Expensive to buy.  The set is complete, but just know you are going to pay for hard to find Matttingly cards.  His 1993 Finest Refractor is one that frequently crosses triple digits.

1994 Flair Hot Gloves Don Mattingly

On the Field Impact-
As a Cardinals fan I could always identify with Don Mattingly.  Cardinals fans always have their fan favorites and they are always completely overvalued.  For example, there is a huge crowd of people who think that Willie McGee should have his number retired.  McGee had a few nice seasons, but he's not Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, or even Ken Boyer (the only retired Cardinals number of a non-Hall of Famer).  Mattingly might be closer to Ken Boyer than Willie McGee, but in my opinion he's not a Hall of Famer.  Sorry Yankees fans.  He's a really nice player and had some spectacular seasons, but there was not much there when he was not healthy.  Which was often.

Now, the 1980s Yankees were not as bad as everyone made them out to be.  Sure they went a whole decade without a World Series title, but there were some good teams around them.  1983 they won 91 games, but finished third behind the Tigers and World Champion Orioles.  1984 they won 87 and were in the same division as the Tigers.  1985 they won 97 games, 1986 they won 90, 1987 they won 87, 1988 they won 85, and 1989 they were actually really bad.  Through all of those just misses Don Mattingly was the best player on the team.  I like the 1980s Don Mattingly and will readily admit that if the production shown below had continued for a few more years I would support Mattingly for the Hall.

I will spare Yankees fans a screen shot of the 1990s Don Mattingly numbers.  They aren't ugly or anything, but they are not Hall of Fame.  Outside the numbers it seemed Mattingly was a blue collar player, hustled, worked hard, and really cared about the team winning.  I think those qualities as a player earn him a lot of love from Yankees fans and really push some of the Hall talk around the former first baseman.  The plaque in Monument Park is cool and more than enough recognition.  Sideburns.


By the way, he's a pretty good manager too.

Favorite Card-
I am going off the radar a little bit with my favorite Mattingly, but also sticking with the miniature theme from the Eck post.  I am going to go with the 1989 Topps Sticker Back Card of Donnie Ballgame.  I always really liked this set.  Pretty cool little wrinkle thrown in with the sticker books too.

1989 Topps Sticker Backs Don Mattingly

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thank Mr. Pujols

There are mornings where I have to pinch myself that Albert Pujols is no longer a member of the Cardinals.  Seemed like he would always have the birds on the bat across his chest, but we all know how that turned out two off seasons ago.  While I was initially bitter at the fact that Albert took his services to Orange County, I am pretty hip to the fact that he is gone now.  I am sure there are many other Cardinals fans who went through the dame grieving process.  

Now that Albert is hanging out with the underachieving Angels for the next eight years, the only piece of Albert left around St. Louis are the two draft picks the Cardinals received from the Angels for signing "Da Albertross".  

First, the Cardinals received the Angels first round pick, the 17th overall in the 2012 MLB draft, and they also received a sandwich pick in between the first and second rounds, which turned out to be the 36th overall pick.  The Cardinals used the picks to select two college players: Texas A&M pitcher Michael Wacha and Stanford outfielder/3B Stephen Piscotty.  I decided to spend a little time checking out their cards this past week and added one of each.  Let's start with Wacha.

2013 Bowman Bowman's Best Refractor Die-Cut

I landed this cool looking Bowman's Best Refractor insert of the Cardinals pitcher which came out of this years Bowman set.  The card is serial numbered to just 99 and I love the cool shape of the die cut.  Topps has done some good work recently with some of their die-cut cards and the Bowman's Best cards are some of the sharpest looking of the bunch.  Wacha seems like he's going to be a good Major League pitcher for a long time.  The Cardinals have put him into the rotation recently and he has pitched very well.  I am eager to see what he can do over a full season of starting and not shuffling between the Majors, AAA, and the bullpen.  Here's a sampling of his work on the hill....

Piscotty has not made an appearance yet for the Cardinals, but had a really good year playing for the Cardinals Double-A team in Springfield and High A team in Palm Beach.  His total line for the season included a .295/.355/.466 line with 15 homers and he also walked more than he struck out.  He has some pretty good reviews around different Minor League sites.  He ranked as the 10th best prospect on the team before 2013, but with Rosenthal, Miller, Wong, and Matt Adams graduating to the Majors I think he will be a top 5 prospect next year.  Here's my new card of the Redbirds prospect....

2013 Bowman Inception Stephen Piscotty Autograph

This Piscotty autograph comes from the Bowman Inception set.  Great looking card.  I've started wondering about putting together this set.  Back on track... Piscotty actually had an autograph last year, but the card has one of those awesome Topps airbrushing jobs.  How do you get a Stanford uniform to turn into a Cardinals road jersey?  Not very well.  He also has a card out in this year's Bowman Chrome set which is either not airbrushed, or done by someone not in seventh grade.  

I am very happy with my two newest Cardinals cards and owe a big thank you to my favorite Anaheim Angel of Orange County, California USA Albert Pujols.  I know your wheels are's that elbow feeling?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard #45-Smoltz/Glavine

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
John Smoltz/Tom Glavine

1990 Donruss MVP John Smoltz-Tom Glavine Error

Hobby Impact-
Before I moved to North Carolina I was not sure if there were any actual Glavine and Smoltz collectors.  Are there two better players who fly under the radar more than Glavine and Smoltz?  Their rookie cards are from the junk wax area, which means they are worth next to nothing, and their base cards are easy to find in the cheapy bins in card stores.  There are not a lot of inserts of the two and few autographs and relics too.  I've picked up an autograph of both players and surprisingly played less than $20 for both autographs.  The prices and availability of Glavine and Smoltz cards seems to suggest that there is little to no market for the two future Hall of Famers, but it's far from true.  Loyal and dedicated Braves fans are typically in on both players and really value their cards greatly.

On The Field Impact-
The combination of Glavine and Smoltz, teamed with ace Greg Maddux allowed the Braves to dominate the National League for all of the 90s and the first part of the 2000s.  They only won the World Series once, in 1995 against Cleveland, but they were a force to be reckoned with every single year.  My worst memory of the duo, I guess this is good from their perspective, came in the 1996 National League Championship Series when the Cardinals had the Braves down 3 games to 1 with the trio of Smoltz, Maddux, and Glavine taking the hill for the final three games.  The Cardinals scored 1 run against the trio and lost the series (The Braves scored 32 runs the finals three games by the way).  Smoltz started the comeback in Game 5 with a seven strong innings and Glavine capped the series off in Game 7 with seven shutout innings.

Glavine ended up with more than 300 wins.  Smoltz ended up with more than 200 wins, but also spent a few years as a closer where he accumulated more than 150 saves, paired with more than 3000 strikeouts.  Both will end up in Cooperstown in the not too distant future.

Favorite Card (s)-
I am not sure that I really have a favorite Smoltz card.  Maybe the 1990 Donruss card.  I also kind of dig his Upper Deck rookie.  Smoltz has a lot of base cards, a few inserts, but nothing that ever really caught my eye.  If I HAD to list a card, I would go with his 2004 Upper Deck USA Baseball autograph.

2004 Upper Deck USA Baseball John Smoltz Autograph 

At some point back in the day, I decided it would be a good idea to own a Smoltz auto.  He's a good player and does not sign a lot of stuff.  I wish it weren't a sticker autograph, but still a nice card to own. Smoltz has become a good signer since his retirement, so maybe I will have to check out adding another autograph of his to my collection.  The Gypsy Queen one looked nice last year.

My Glavine card speaks for itself:

1988 Topps Tom Glavine

Pretty much the coolest looking Glavine card ever printed.  There are so many things that are going on in this many.  One last cool bonus card.  If you are a fan of the 90s/2000s Braves you must pick up the incredibly cool Smoltz/Glavine dual bat card from Topps Fusion.  Pretty cheap and easy to find.

2001 Topps Fusion Double Features John Smoltz/Tom Glavine Dual Bat 

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Rays? Maybe.

I am in the market for a new player to collect.  A new Rays player, or Cardinals player...something different.  Tonight I am going to share a pair of Rays players on my radar to add to my collection.  In fact, I recently went out and picked up a card of each player to start the juices, marinate, and determine my interest in each player.  Let's take a look:

Candidate One: Kyeong Kang

2010 Topps Debut Kyeong Kang Futures Game Jersey

Kyeong Kang is a Korean National, but was drafted out of a High School in Georgia by the Rays in 2006.  Last year Kang hit 15 homers in just over 100 games, showing very good pop, but this was also his third season playing for the Rays Double A team in Montgomery.  Kang has some pretty high strikeout totals, but has also shown the ability to take a walk with an On Base Percentage above .350.  I am curious to see if Kang will be bumped up to Durham next year, or if he will linger another year in AA.  He is also eligible to become a minor league free agent, so it will also be interesting to see if he stays with the only organization he has ever known.  Still intriguing.  The Rays always have some older guys in Durham who play a lot and play well.  See Dan Johnson, Steve Cox, Kevin Witt.

Candidate Two: Enny Romero

2013 Topps Pro Debut Enny Romero Jersey

Romero is a little bit more of a traditional prospect.  He's sure to pitch a significant number of games next season in Durham after starting 27 games this season in Montgomery with an ERA under 3.  During the final week of the season Romero started a game for the Bulls and went eight innings while pitching a shutout.  The Rays have done well with developing quality starting pitchers and I have no doubt that Romero is a player the team views as a future contributor in the Major League rotation.  So, really this seems like a no-brainer.  What's there to think about?  Well, in order to collect a player they need cards.  Romero has two relics cards and one autographed card.  Not a really big catalog.  Maybe Topps will make more.  Maybe they will make more Alex Cobb autographs.  Maybe.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard #46-Dennis Eckersley

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
Dennis Eckersley

1976 Topps Dennis Eckersley RC

Hobby Impact-
The Eck really came into his own as a player, and in the baseball card hobby, when Tony LaRussa signed him as a relief pitcher with the Oakland A's.  Eckersley was surrounded by several hobby favorites during his time in Oakland, which certainly helped his hobby value, but he earned a lot of the interest in his cards through his great performance on the field.  In fact, if you look at the run of good Oakland teams from 1988 through 1992, Eckersley is the real standout pitcher on the team.  

While his cards had taken a dive during the mid 80s, they had a bit of a revival and are now pretty popular.  Add in the fact that Eck has always been a good signer with a great signature and you've got a good chance to be pretty popular within the hobby.  While his cards are not necessarily always really high in value, it's not hard to find collectors who are interested in adding a few nice Eckersley cards to their collections.  

2005 Prime Patches Dennis Eckersley Triple Jersey/Autograph

If you are looking for an inexpensive copy, easily found for less than $20, I suggest looking around at some of his 2005 Donruss/Playoff products which featured him as a Cardinal or Cub.  Not the finest stops in his career which is certainly reflected in the price of the cards.  I will say though, that the Cardinals cards in the Prime Patches set feature some nice multiple relic and patch cards.  

On The Field Impact-
Eckersley started off his career with the Indians and later moved to the Red Sox as a dominate starting pitcher.  He compiled really good numbers as a starter, but his career tailed off after moving to the Cubs in the 80s.  Needless to say, there were a few off the field issues around this time with Eckersley.

In the great tradition of LaRussa/Dave Duncan reclamation projects, the A's signed Eckersley, and moved him to the bullpen.  Eckersley became a control pitcher who threw the ball outside and became one of the most dominating relief pitchers in the Majors from the late 80s through the mid 90s.  1992 was his best year when he won the Cy Young and the MVP while leading the A's to a playoff appearance.  

My favorite Eckersley stat factoid comes from his 1989 and 1990 seasons where he walked less than five people each season while appearing in more than 60 games.  In fact, during those two seasons he walked seven batters combined, one intentionally, while striking out 128 batters.  Pretty impressive control.  

Favorite Card-
Easy.  The 1989 Topps Mini.  

1989 Topps Mini Dennis Eckersley 

Eckersley played for more than twenty years and this follow through is what I remember best about him as a pitcher.  He also squinted one eye when he was pitching, had that funny leg kick, and would always touch his hair before throwing a pitch.  For whatever reason, maybe it's just me, this card is what Dennis Eckersley looks like.  If you were looking for a 1A for best Eckersley card you should find a copy of his 2013 Topps Tribute autograph.  A's uniform, mullet, autograph.  Near perfection.  

1999 Upper Deck Ray Lankford Exclusives

1999 Upper Deck Ray Lankford Exclusives 

Picked up a cool card of 90s Cardinals star Ray Lankford this past week.  This card comes from one of the really cool parallel sets from the late 90s that is extremely popular with collectors.  While parallels have lost some of their luster in recent years with all of the printing plates and "rainbow" parallels the last 90s parallels were very limited and highly collectable.  The Exclusives parallel set was the exclusive parallel set for the late 90s and early 2000s Upper Deck sets.  There was not an orange, red, yellow, blue, and purple versions with different numbers of each which really amounted to a whole bunch of cards.

The Exclusives cards were just simply colored differently from the regular base set.  In the case of the 1999 set, the base cards had silver borders, while the Exclusives set featured a copper colored border.  There was also a second set of Exclusives cards that were numbered to just 10.  The copper set was limited to just 100 copies of each card and can be both difficult to find and expensive to purchase.  My Ray Lankford card cost around $5, but have seen copies of star players cross $20.  Commons can be found as cheap as $1 and a definite fun set of cards to pursue and chase down.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard-#47 George Brett

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
George Brett

1975 Topps George Brett RC

Hobby Impact-
I think that Brett is player who flies under the hobby radar frequently.  While the Royals were a good team while Brett was an active player, they have been a terrible team since he retired in 1993.  It's hard to find Royals fans these days, let alone Royals collectors.  It's kind of sad when a team goes into a tailspin that involves using the world decades as an adjective, but that's where the team has been.

A lack of interest in the team, in my opinion, has often hurt the cards of Brett.  Don't get me wrong, they can still make a collector a good dime, but I often feel like I have to be really patient when I have a Brett card to sell or trade.  His rookie card hails from the iconic, and vibrant, 1975 Topps set and is still a very popular card with vintage collectors.  Graded copies can push $100 and nice raw copies can still bring in $30 or $40.  Autographs?  He has a lot of them with a nice signature and they sell.  Autograph issues from the late 1990s and early 2000s can bring in more than $50 quite easily.

I think that if the Royals were ever competitive for a number of years, reconnected with their fan base a little bit (see Pittsburgh), then I think you will see an uptick in Brett cards.

On The Field Impact-
Brett won a three batting titles, almost .400 one year, and won an MVP award.  He also supposedly won a World Series thanks to Don Denkinger.  Here's a picture of Jaquain Andujar asking Denkinger about his dinner plans after Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Seriously, the Royals were a good team in the early 1980s and Brett was the star of the team.  The Royals seemed to frequently run into the Yankees in the ALCS and lose, but Brett was great in defeat.  His career ALCS batting average was .340.  Not too shabby.  His biggest moment was obviously the Pine Tar Incident against the Yankees in 1983.

Favorite Card-
Easy question.  The last regular issue Topps George Brett card in 1994.  I love this card because it's got a picture of George Brett, the scoreboard in Kaufmann Stadium, and part of the fountains in the outfield.  If you had to make a list of iconic items and features of the Kansas City Royals those three things would all make the list.  

1994 Topps George Brett 

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard-#48 Dave Winfield

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard 
Dave Winfield

1974 Topps Dave Winfield RC

Hobby Impact-
I have never been super huge on Winfield cards, but he's always had a pretty decent following.  I think much of his what drives his card values is owed to his Yankee years, but I know a few that dig the old 70s Padres cards.  He's also pretty legendary around Minnesota and I am surprised he was not referenced in Fargo.  Almost every "good" Winfield card in my collection is a Padres card.  While I am personally not invested very deep with Winfield cards, he seems to frequently pop up in important sets and is a good and willing signer.  He's appeared recently in high end Topps products like Triple Threads and Topps Sterling as a signer, but also appeared in some really important sets in the late 90s and early 2000s as a Yankee including the Greats of the Game releases, UD Retro, and Topps Archives.  

On the Field Impact-
He is obviously a Hall of Famer, but I consider him a compiler.  He's got some nice numbers and good seasons.  He hit more than thirty home runs a few years in the early eighties when that was a feat.  Really, at the end of his career his numbers look pretty good.  Winfield won a World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992 as the team's DH.  All-Star games, check.  Gold Gloves, check.  Sounds good.  

Favorite Card-
Like many players, Winfield bounced around quite a bit at the end of his career making appearances for the Angels, Blue Jays, Twins, and Indians.  While some of those years were still productive, the last year with the Twins and the season with the Indians was not pretty.  Luckily, in 1993 Upper Deck put out a cool insert set of some older players in the 1993 Upper Deck base set, who at the time were in some serious decline.  As a Cardinals fan, it was nice to see a young Ozzie Smith instead of the old guy who could not throw the ball to first base anymore.  

1993 Upper Deck Then & Now Dave Winfield 

Upper Deck also treated us with a Dave Winfield in the set complete with the old Padres unis and cool 70s sideburns.  The background is a hologram which shows Winfield as a Blue Jay.  It was hard to get the hologram part to scan, but he can kind of see the picture of Winfield swinging on the right hand side of the card.