Friday, November 29, 2013

Big D's Sports Cards

I was shocked a few weeks ago to find out that a new card shop started up recently in Raleigh.  I was really excited at the prospects of finding new places to find cards.  If you read those cool places to live lists Raleigh, Durham, and its immediate suburbs often appear on those lists.  Money Magazine recently rated my corner of North Carolina, Apex, as the ninth best place to live in the US.  In reading all of these lists and accolades the writers often do not take into account the fact that the Raleigh-Durham metro area has almost zero card shops.  How does a metro area of almost two million people end up without any decent card shops? 

For eight years I have been perplexed at the lack of card shops.  It's not that there are none, but it's more like the ones that are here are a little disappointing.  The major hurdles facing card shop in the area are plentiful, but I mainly blame two factors.  First, college sports rule in central North Carolina.  While there are college sports products and memorabilia, it's a little bit of difficult market to base a whole card shop around.  Second, Raleigh-Durham is a huge transplant area.  During my twenty-five minute commute in the morning I am often astonished to see how many NFL, NBA, and NHL team stickers and license tags I see on different cars.  Name a major sports team, drive around Raleigh for a day, and you will see something of that team attached to a car.  Imagine trying to stock a card shop for a city with a diverse population of different fan bases.

I can be a little bit tough on card shops, but I have my standards and I stick to them.  Finally, almost eight years to the day that I moved to Raleigh-Durham I found a card shop that I not only bought cards from, but I will return to the shop and buy more cards.  So, here's my run down on Big D's Card Shop:

The card shop owner Jimmy is an awesome person.  Knowledgeable and friendly about cards and sports.  He's also tech savvy and can be found on the internet using the information on the card posted above, or by visiting his Facebook page and his Twitter page.  He posts pictures of cards to his pages, so even if you are not in central North Carolina he's a great person to follow and talk cards with via social media.  You know that I am a baseball only collector, so I cannot give you a complete and detailed run down on all of the different sports, but he does have a nice variety of football, hockey, basketball, and college sports items with a good range of prices from high end stuff all the way down to dollar boxes and common boxes. 

The display cases are well organized and it's really easy to find cards in the shop.  The display cases are full with all kinds of cards, but the items for sale are stacked and organized so they can easily be looked at and seen by customers.  Jimmy is also great at pointing out cards of interest without being high pressure and is more than willing to pull cards out for closer inspection.  When I entered the store we talked for a few minutes and he did a great job of helping me try to pick out some nice Cardinals and Durham Bulls cards.  I had my choice of several nice cards of Bob Gibson, Matt Holliday, David Price, Matt Moore, and the list could go on.

I usually try to limit my first visit to a store and have a set number of dollars to spend entering, but Big D's Sports Cards made that rule a little bit challenging.  I had several nice single cards to choose from along with wax which was priced very competitively.  I would go so far to say that Big D's has the best wax prices of the card shops in Raleigh-Durham.  I haven't really dabbled in the Bowman Draft set yet, but I would have a hard time beating his prices on Blowout Cards or Atlanta Sport Cards. 

So, after much deliberation I settled on having myself a Durham Bulls kind of day during my first trip into Big D's.  Here are the cards that I walked out with at the end of the day:

 2013 Topps Chrome Jake Odorizzi

2012 Topps Triple Threads David Price Jersey

 2013 Topps Museum Collection Matt Moore Quad Jersey-Nice 3 color patch

2013 Topps Triple Threads Jake Odorizzi Jersey/Auto

2011 Bowman Sterling Wil Myers

2012 Bowman Chrome Wil Myers All-Star Futures Game

I have also picked up a pair of non-Durham Bulls too.  Love the Tulo. 

2013 Topps Triple Threads Troy Tulowitzki Quad Bat

1983 Topps Archives Miguel Cabrera 1983 All-Star

This was clearly the best card shop I have ever been to in North Carolina and it's not even close.  The variety and quality of single cards cannot be touched and the wax pricing is great.  Single card pricing was great too.  I was happy to find a store where I could find Cardinals cards and also find some really great additions to my Durham Bulls collection.  Finally, I would not be doing fair or quality work as a blogger if I did not mention the Braves cards.  Jimmy has an absolutely incredible selection of Braves cards.  There is a little taste on his Facebook page, but the store display is awesome.  If you are a Braves fan, Big D's is a must stop.  If you are not a Braves fan, shop at Big D's. 

Second Annual Snorting Bull Hall of Fame Ballot

I liked making a Hall of Fame ballot post last year, so I decided to make a second one this year.  In fact, let's just pencil it into the regular posts for the foreseeable future.  There are few topics in the sport of baseball that are hotter than the Hall of Fame voting.  The controversy mainly swirls around whether or not to vote in players from the steroid era.  Some are known users, while users are speculated users.  I stayed away from known steroid users on my hypothetical ballot last year last year, but would not shy away from these players if I had a vote this year.

The reason for my change?  Look at the known steroid users.  Read the Mitchell Report, or just Google Search steroid users and you will see that they represent a fair cross section of the baseball population.  You have fringe players like Larry Bigbie and Adam Piatt.  You have star pitchers like Roger Clemens and star hitters like Barry Bonds.  Of course, there are players of all sorts of abilities in between those groups of players and they all used.  So, really if a large section of players was using then what advantage did steroids really provide?  Sure the power numbers have come down in baseball since the end of the steroid era, but when you look at a player like Barry Bonds, who has a known timeline of steroid use, the steroid years do not make or break his candidacy into the Hall of Fame.  He's a Hall of Famer.

Arguments calling for a "moral take" on the Hall of Fame ballot are comical given that players like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were far from "good" people, but yet they are no-brainer Hall of Fame players.  For my money this year the bigger argument revolves around the fact that voters can only add ten players to their list of names on the ballot.  It's a bit of an issue this year, and might become a bigger issue if the Baseball Writes Association continues to vote in players at a snail's pace.

Here are the players on this year's ballot:

The ballot: Moises Alou, Jeff Bagwell, Armando Benitez, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Sean Casey, Roger Clemens, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, Paul Lo Duca, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, Richie Sexson, Lee Smith, J.T. Snow, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Mike Timlin, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.

That's a lot of names.  If I had a vote I would put them on my ballot based on the strength of their candidacy.  Several of the players on the ballot would be a tough decision to decide between, but there are a few on this list who should be a slam dunk Hall of Famer.

Barry Bonds 
San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates

Bonds has 762 home runs which is the all-time career Major League leader whether you like or not.  JAWS rates Barry Bonds as the all-time best left-fielder ahead of Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Carl Yastrzameski, and Pete Rose.  Bonds had a career WAR of 162.5 (Ted Williams is 123.2) and an OPS+ of 182, which is actually lower than Ted Williams (higher than everyone else).  Bonds also has a career OBP of .444 and is the all-time career leaders in walks.  Really, I could sit here all day and make a huge list of Bonds career accomplishments and it would be never ending.  The guy is a slam dunk.

Greg Maddux 
Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres

If you are an anti-steroid Hall of Fame person than you should not have a problem with this vote.  Maddux might have been the best pitcher of his era.  At worst, he might have been behind Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.  Third is not bad when those two are your competition.  JAWS rates him as the tenth best starting pitcher of all-time and if you are into counting stats than you should love Maddux's 355 wins and 3,300+ strikeouts.  Maddux also has a career ERA+ of 132 and a career WAR of 104.  Both are very impressive numbers.  Again, slam dunk no brainer Hall of Famer.

Roger Clemens

Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Houston Astros

Clemens is a lot like Maddux.  Best, or close to the best, pitcher of his era.  Clemens won over 300 games, struckout over 4000 batters, won a bunch of Cy Youngs, and a few World Series rings too.  The "Rocket" had an ERA+ of 143 and a career WAR of 139.  The real problem with Clemens has been that he has made a huge ass of himself trying to defend himself from the steroid mess.  Never a real great idea.  Still does not change the fact that Clemens was a great starting pitcher and deserving of the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza
Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Oakland A's

In my opinion, the biggest snub job of the Baseball Writers during the past five years.  Piazza falls into the category of guy that people suspect of being a steroid user, but there is not any evidence he actually used.  This guy belongs in the same category as the three names above him on this page.  Piazza should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer and is the best catcher of his generation.  One of the best offensive catchers ever.  JAWS rates Piazza as the fifth best catcher of all-time behind Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, and Carlton Fisk.  Piazza was a better career OPS+ than those five players, but is behind them in WAR (along with Yogi Berra).  Piazza's name is keeping some pretty good company.

Tom Glavine

Atlanta Braves and New York Mets

Glavine fits in with Maddux.  Steroids are not a factor here and Glavine was one of the best pitchers of his generation.  If you are into the counting numbers, Glavine reached the 300 win plateau and won twenty games more than 5 times during his career.  While Glavine is not the best of a generation pitcher, he's one of the better pitchers of his generation.  He was an excellent control pitcher who picked on the outside corner of plate than kept moving the ball off further off the plate.  JAWS has Glavine rated as the 30th best pitcher in MLB history right in front of Nolan Ryan.  Two pitchers could not be further apart in style than Ryan and Glavine, but Glavine got the job done for more than a decade.

Frank Thomas
Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland A's

This is another guy who I could see the Baseball Writers "suspecting" of steroids.  Thomas was on offensive lineman at Auburn before the Chicago White Sox made him a first round draft pick.  Thomas hit more than 500 home runs, had a career line of .301/.419/.555, and a career OPS of .974.  His OPS+ for his career was 156 and his offensive WAR was 79.  I am not going to deny that Thomas was a terrible fielder.  There was a reason why he spent a huge chunk of his career as a DH.  JAWS rates Thomas as the ninth best first baseman ahead of Willie McCovey.  Love the Donruss baseball card sign in this video...

Tim Raines 
Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland A's, and Florida Marlins

I was really impressed to see one of my favorite St. Louis sports writers, Bernie Miklasz give my man Tim Raines a little Hall of Fame love this week in his column about his Hall of Fame ballot.  Basically if you love Lou Brock you should love Tim Raines more.  He was an on-base machine for years.  Many will point out the fact that he did not reach 3,000 hits, but we walked so much that he was on-base way more than many guys with 3,000 hits.  He also stole more than 800 stolen bases winning four stolen base crowns during the 80s.  If it weren't for Vince Coleman he would have won another four or five crowns.

Jeff Bagwell
Houston Astros

Bagwell actually is rated higher than Thomas in the WAR ratings at 6th overall.  Bagwell did not get to 500 home runs and he did not get to 3000 hits.  If you ignore the counting stats and look other places he was an impressive player.  Bagwell is mainly punished in Hall of Fame voting for having a short career.  His OPS+ was 149 and his WAR was 79.5.  Both very impressive figures.  Bagwell should have been in the Hall last year, but again falls into the category of "suspected" steroid user because he played during the wrong era.

Craig Biggio 
Houston Astros 

I am not sure why Biggio is not in the Hall.  He's got great counting number stats and if you are into the more complicated math he's great there too.  Bill James once thought he was the best player in the game.  Biggio started his career as a catcher, switched to second base, ended up in the outfield, and then returned back to second base.  He was a great player at every position he played.  He crossed 3,000 hits and ended his career with more than 660 doubles which is good for fifth all-time.  Should have already been in the Hall.

Mark McGwire  
Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals 

I will go with a pot stirrer for my final candidate.  McGwire was one of the greatest home run hitters of his generation.  It's about the only stat he has in his candidacy which makes him a person who is likely to wait a long time to see the Hall.  JAWS has him rated as the 16th best first baseman of all-time which puts him ahead of Tony Perez, Harmon Killebrew, and Orlando Cepeda.  Big Mac deserves a shot in my opinion.

If more than 10 players were allowed on a ballot I could have also voted for: Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, and Sammy Sosa.   Just my two cents.  Who's on your Hall of Fame ballot?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Top 50 On Cardboard- #22 Pete Rose

My Top 50 On Cardboard 
Pete Rose

1987 Topps Pete Rose 

An interesting post indeed for your Thanksgiving day.  Major League Baseball banned Rose from the game in 1989 for betting on baseball games he was managing for the Reds.  The fallout has been an ongoing soap opera that has run its course and is just slightly sad and tired at this point.  Nobody has stirred the Major League Baseball pot over the last thirty years more than Pete Rose.  All of the attention has certainly helped keep Rose relevant, but his life-time ban from the game certainly puts a hamper on Charlie Hustle's popularity and ability to impact the hobby.

Hobby Impact- 
The last official Pete Rose card was issued in the 1989 Topps set and featured Rose as the manager of the Reds.  Since then there have been Rose cards made, but none of them have been officially licensed by Major League Baseball.  It seems the heaviest action on Rose baseball cards has been from the rebirth of Dallas based card company Leaf.  Leaf does not shy away from controversy, so it's only fitting that the company puts out sets of cards featuring the former Reds player with all the logos removed from the cards.

2012 Leaf Living Legends Pete Rose Autograph 

While it's cool to see a Pete Rose autograph on a piece of cardboard, Leaf has produced a boat load of these autographs with all sorts of stickers, variations, and card types.  In simple terms, Pete Rose autographs have been overproduced and are basically a dime a dozen on Ebay.  Why buy a box of an unlicensed product from Leaf when you can just go on Ebay and get a Pete Rose autograph for $10 to $15 with no commons?  It's sad in many ways to see one of the greatest players in the history of the game down this low, but at this point nothing is really shocking when it comes to Pete Rose.  I am sure he will keep signing cards by the thousands and eventually his signature will be worth even less.

Luckily there is a silver lining to the dark cloud that is Pete Rose.  As a player Topps, Fleer, and Donruss all made plenty of cool Rose cards, especially the old Topps cards.  The cards are still worth something and are still desired by collectors.  One of my favorite vintage cards in my collection is an old 1975 Topps Rose card I picked up in a flea market in Southern Illinois during college.

1975 Topps Pete Rose

The card is definitely well-loved, but this is a great set and the Rose card is awesome.  I have picked up a much cleaner copy since, but these are the cards which still make Rose a relevant part of the hobby.  For card purists, Rose has kind of become a cool player over the past twenty years because the lifetime ban has prevented Topps and Upper Deck from flooding the secondary card market with a bunch of commemorative and reprint cards.  You are left with twenty-five years worth of player and manager cards only from the years that Rose played and managed (plus those Leaf cards)

1971 Topps Pete Rose

Rose is one rookie card that I have never owned, but someday I will have to pick one up for my collection.  If you ignore the Leaf cards, not a problem here, he's one of the few players left who you might honestly have a chance of collecting most of his entire run of cards.  1971 is my favorite in my collection, not issued in 1984 or 1975.

On the Field-
Rose is most famous for being the all-time hit leader of Major League Baseball passing Ty Cobb with hit number 4,192 during the 1985 season.  He did not play after the 1986 season, but remained with the Reds as the team's manager.  I don't remember much about Rose as player from my childhood, but I do remember going to a Cardinals/Reds game and seeing him break up an almost no-hitter by Danny Cox. Really, this is the moment as reported on by a local Cincinnati television station:

The real story about Pete Rose over the last thirty years began in the spring of 1989.  There had been rumblings that Rose might have a gambling problem, but Peter Ueberroth had initially cleared Rose of wrong-doing.  Then Sports Illustrated put out a detailed report about Rose's gambling and ran the story the first week of the 1989 Major League season.

Rose was banned from Major League Baseball on August 24th, 1989.  At times many have speculated about a Rose return from his ban, but at this point I am skeptical if we will ever see it as long as Pete Rose is living.  I am not going to delve into an entire essay on the matter, but if you are interested on my thoughts on Charlie Hustle you can check out my opinions on the matter here.  

Favorite Card-
Some Rose collectors are going to cringe at the pick for the best Rose card, but I have always loved this card.  Frankly, given that Rose played three-quarters of a season in Montreal makes me wonder why nobody else really managed to get a Rose card out as an Expo.  Donruss put out an Expo card of Pete in 1985, but he had already been traded back to the Reds (for Tom Lawless -48 seconds).  

1984 Fleer Pete Rose

Great card from an iconic 80s set.  If you do not have one of these in your collection I highly recommend search one out.  Inexpensive too.  

500th Post Giveaway

My 500th Post Giveaway has ended and the drawing was held this morning.  The winner of the Roger Craig autograph is:

Congratulations to San Jose Fuji!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

1999 Skybox Molten Metal Xplosion Set: Update #2

I was up to 60 cards in my quest for completing my Skybox Molten Metal Xplosion set after last week and I have quickly found another twelve cards I needed for the set Sunday night and added them to my growing stack of cards.  I am know at 72 cards for a grand total of 48% of the set.  I still have a long way to go in completing this set, but I feel like I am off to a great start and I am being pretty aggressive about looking.  I have got a few leads on another dozen or so cards which could get me over the half way point in the set by the end of the week.

Here's a look at the newest additions:

Buy Local, Buy Cardinals

It's fun to watch the college baseball teams around North Carolina, but the Cardinals always seem to pick up players from all the other ACC schools besides the big four North Carolina schools.  Currently there are two Cardinals who graduated from the ACC with Shane Robinson coming out of Florida State and Jon Jay coming off of Miami.  Seth Maness went to East Carolina, but nobody is quite sure what conference ECU is even in anymore.  

The Cardinals also have a few ACC grads progressing through their minor league system.  James Ramsey from Florida State is probably the best known of the bunch.  However, throughout the summer I was surprised to see a name pop up on a Cardinals minor league roster and then later in the summer on a FanGraphs countdown list celebrating the best fringe prospects.  Is that even an honor to be the best fringe prospect? 

 I am counting it as a positive at this point.  Meet former Wake Forest Demon Deacon pitcher, and current Springfield Cardinal, Tim Cooney:  

You know you are under the radar when the only actual video of you pitching on YouTube is posted to your own account.  Is he even throwing on a baseball field?  Not clear.  What is clear is that Tim Cooney was an award winning pitcher this summer.  In fact, he was on the Fringe list a grand total of four times this summer and on the next best five (honorable fringness) another time.  

Cooney was a pretty good college pitcher too, but I am not sure that he was on the best of college teams.  He was ACC pitcher of the week several times during his junior year, but we only went 6-7 with an ERA close to 4.  However, when you take a look at some of his game logs he really had some great outings.  For example, in the ACC Championship he struck a total of 10 in 6 innings against College World Series qualifier North Carolina.  However, Wake Forest got shut out in that game.

So, the real question is does Tim Cooney have anything in the way of baseball cards?  Would he have a blog post on my page if he didn't?

2012 Panini Elite Extra Edition Tim Cooney Autograph 

Cooney only has one baseball card, a 2012 Panini Elite, but the card has an autographed version on top of the regular base card.  The autograph is even on-card to make up for the fact that Panini does not have an NCAA license and airbrushed over the WF on the top of Cooney's cap.  The low print versions of this card can be pretty competitive, but the base red autograph is dirt cheap.  I picked up the card above for four dollars and the seller threw in a second card:

2012 Panini Elite Extra Edition Tim Cooney Autograph 

at the same price.  Now, I am not guaranteeing that Tim Cooney makes it to the Majors, but he ended up making the Texas League All-Star team and I have a feeling that the Cardinals will put him in Memphis next year.  Meaning he is one step, or one injury, away from being added to the roster and making his Cardinals debut.  $4 is a small gamble and if nothing else I now own the baseball card of a pretty good ACC pitcher.  Too bad he played for Wake and not State.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

1999 Pacific Private Stock Set

I have started working on a new project already this week, so this post is not going to inspire anything new project wise, but this is one of my favorite late 90s set.  I found the cards about two weeks ago while working on organizing my cards and have not been able to set them down the past few days.  Critics of the Pacific cards will often cite the same boring format, similar styles and designs, and cheap card stock.  Love them, or hate them, the Private Stock set release was a unique release for Pacific because it ditched a lot of what traditionally made up a Pacific baseball card set.

1999 Pacific Private Stock Roger Clemens 

The design and style of the card is not too far of a stretch for Pacific and might be about the only thing that was somewhat normal about this set from the now defunct card brand.  All of the pictures are actually game action shots with the backgrounds blurred out with some sort of pixalated effect behind the player.  I believe that is an Office Max sign behind Roger Clemens, but it looks like an Office Max sign painted by Georges Seurat and you are standing a little too close to the picture (that's two Seurat references this month).  For me it was enough of a departure from the normal Pacific product, which I am a fan of, to catch me attention and peak my interest in this set.

The design of the back further added to the variance in the design from traditional baseball card sets.  Rather than doing stats, or a biographical section, Pacific posted a box score on the back of each card in the Private Stock set.  

It was always really cool to see what Pacific put on the back with the box scores.  Some of the cards, like this Clemens were really obvious and easy to pick out.  A 15 strikeout game is a no-brainer and probably took someone at Pacific a matter of seconds to pick that game out from a page of Clemens game logs.  I thought there would be players with ho-hum box scores on the back, like Bob went 1-4 with a single in a 4-3 loss against the Phillies, but there are not really any cards like that.  Even Brant Brown had a really good line on his card.

Of course the base set featured several different rookie cards and the majority of them had a small variation with a red rookie stamp up in the top left-hand corner of the card.  Most of the names of the rookies in the set are missable, but there are a few interesting cards.  Ryan Minor was a two-sports star in basketball and baseball, but did not really make it in either the NBA or MLB.  Other names are a little bit more recognizable and of course there was the one rookie card which Pacific decided to add a stamp onto in addition to the red rookie typing.

1999 Pacific Private Stock J.D. Drew 

Sometime after the 1997 amateur draft Scott Boras and J.D. Drew convinced the entire baseball world, that includes the baseball card world, that Drew was worth a small fortune because he was the next Mickey Mantle.  Complete with the #7 jersey number.  The Phillies drafted Drew and he did not sign.  The Cardinals drafted Drew in the 1998 amateur draft, signed him, and called him up in September.  Drew hit everything and people were sold.  Every card company had a J.D. Drew card.  Well, the really good ones came out in 1998, like the Fleer Update.  The 1999 Pacific Private Stock was a few months short.  Gold star for effort on the part of Pacific and cool little stamp on the right side of the card declaring this as some sort of exclusive card.

The really odd part about this set came from the actually physical ordering of the cards.  Every single Pacific set I have ever collected has always started with the Angels and worked it's way through the team alphabetically from Anaheim to Toronto.  However, the Private Stock set broke that long held tradition with Pacific baseball card sets.  Below are cards 7, 8, and 9 front and back.

The whole set is ordered more along the lines of a small Topps set with the players arranged randomly between the beginning and ending of the set.  Even the rookies are mixed in with the regular cards and not given a special place in the set which was very common at the time, especially with the Upper Deck sets.

If you cannot find anything redeeming about the cards above, there were also a mini-206 card inserted in every pack of Private Stock.  The cards have a 206 back and are the same size, but the design is just a copy of the regular base from Private Stock with an added white border.

1999 Pacific Private Stock PS-206 Nomar Garciaparra

I know there are a lot of minis fans out there and this is a really good full set of minis to try to put together.

Co-Signers Oddball

I had the chance to pick up a cool card with the signature of two former Cardinals on it this week in the form of a 1999 Topps Stadium Club Co-Signers Scott Spiezio/Tony Womack autograph.  I really love some of these Co-Signers cards and have a bunch in my collection, but scratch my head at times over the combination of players Topps put together on some of the cards.  This card is one of them. 

1999 Topps Stadium Club Co-Signers Scott Spiezio/Tony Womack Autograph

At the time the card was issued Spiezio was a utility infielder for A's at the time with a little bit of pop.  Nothing to write home about and I am a little surprised at the time that Topps would even put him on an autographed card.  Womack was the real star of this card which might be hard for some to believe.  At the time of the cards issue, Womack had just been traded to the Diamondbacks and was on his way to his third stolen base crown in a row.  More importantly, Womack would play a few seasons in Arizona and pick up two huge hits which helped the Diamondbacks win the World Series in 2001. 

The first came in the tight NLDS series against the Cardinals.  The Diamondbacks and Cardinals went to a decisive five game in the first round and were tied at 1 in the ninth when Tony Womack came up against Steve Kline.

Womack had an even bigger hit in game 7 of the World Series that year.  Most people remember the Luis Gonzalez blooper which won the game for the Diamondbacks, but the Yankees actually entered the ninth inning of that game ahead by a run.  Before Gonzo could win, Womack tied the game up of off Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera.

Womack would go on to win the National League crown with the Cardinals in 2004 before bouncing around to the Yankees, Reds, and Cubs his last couple of years in the league.  Womack had a really good year for the Cardinals in 2004 posting a .307 batting average and a career high .349 on-base percentage, but it's hard to top the contributions he made for the Diamondbacks in 2001.

Spiezio helped the Angels win the World Series in 2002 with this huge home run:

and later helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.  The times before and after each World Series appearance for Spiezio were very forgettable and riddled with poor play and bad behavior away from the field.  His career ended after he drank himself off the Cardinals in 2007.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

1999 Skybox Molten Metal Xplosion Set: Update #1

I am going to stay aggressive, yet smart, on picking up the cards that I need to complete my 1999 Skybox Molten Metal Xplosion set.  I am going to try to pick up at least one card every week.  So, here we go with this week's update:

Entering the week I had a total of 39 out 150 cards for a total of 26% of the set.  This week I managed to add a total of 21 new cards.  One came from a small pick up on Ebay that cost me a few cents which netted me a copy of the Travis Lee card from the set.

The other twenty cards from the set I picked up were generously sent to me from Tony Burrell, he's a Facebook trader with the greatest and largest Pat Burrell collection anywhere.  Very generous and I am grateful to get off to a great start on this project.  Here's a look at the twenty cards I received from Tony.

The 21 new cards bring my total for the set up to 60 cards, or 40% of the set.  I am hoping that with a few days off next week for Thanksgiving break I can cross the 50% mark.  I need 15 cards to do it.  Go team.

My Top 50 On Cardboard- #23 Kirby Puckett

My Top 50 On Cardboard
Kirby Puckett

1985 Topps Kirby Puckett RC

Kirby Puckett was one of the great players of my childhood.  He was an enemy of sorts in 1987 for me when the Twins defeated my Cardinals in the World Series, but he never got to the point of being the Mets or Cubs.  I think I really first started to like Puckett during the 1991 World Series.  Unfortunately, Puckett's career only lasted a few years beyond that ending in 1995 after he was diagnosed with Glaucoma.  Puckett still managed to win a pair of World Series rings and be elected to the Hall of Fame despite only playing twelve seasons.  

Hobby Impact-
Puckett had a huge impact in the hobby starting with his rookie card in the 1984 Fleer Update set.  The set is one of the iconic sets of the 80s and features, not only Puckett's rookie card, but also the rookie card of pitcher Roger Clemens.  The Clemens gets most of the attention, but the Puckett card is just as important in my opinion.  

1984 Fleer Update Kirby Puckett RC

Raw copies of the 1984 Fleer Update Puckett rookie card can usually be had for $35 to $40 on Ebay, but the price can be steep for high graded copies.  Puckett's impact in the baseball card hobby extended far beyond his rookie card though.  Kirby was a staple in baseball card throughout his playing career and usually had pretty cool cards.  He's one of my favorite 80s and 90s players to flip through and just look at the pictures on the cards.

Common cards of Puckett are dirt cheap since he was an 80s player.  His relics and autographs are a little bit different.  Since Puckett only played twelve years, and is a Hall of Famer, there is a slight premium with his relics at times.  I have never really found a bargin Puckett relic and have often found the most common of common ones still often push five or six bucks with shipping.  Minimum.  Relics from premium sets are downright pricey.

Of course, like his playing career ended a little too early, Kirby died in 2006 at the age of 45.  He was not a huge signer, so his autograph prices have remained really high over the last two decades since he retired.  Outside of his awesome Fleer rookie card that is one of his greatest current impacts on the hobby.  If you are looking for a challenging autograph to track down for your collection Kirby Puckett might be for you. 

I managed to track down one of the few certified Puckett autographs out there for my collection a few years back.  The vast majority of Puckett autographs are Upper Deck or Donruss autographs.  There are a few sticker autographs floating around, but it's not too difficult to find a few on-card autographs around at a slight premium.  I picked my autograph up from the Upper Deck Retro set.  

While the Retro set is not the best Puckett autograph in the world, I am just happy to say that I have one in my collection.  Again, fun card project for 80s baseball card fans.

On The Field Impact-
Puckett's value on the field is hard to judge because he did not play for very long.  He only had 2,300 hits and 200 home runs when he retired from baseball in 1995, but he called it quits at only the age of 35 because of health concerns.  Clearly if Puckett had played another 4 or 5 years and extended his career closer to the age of 40, he would have reached 3000 hits and approached 300 home runs.  Both extremely good numbers for a center fielder.

Puckett also won a batting title in 1989, but posted a batting average over .300 in every Major League season except for two.  Four times he posted the high hit total in the American League.  Puckett also posted more than 400 career doubles.  So, while Puckett's career picture still looks good, even with the shortened career, it looks even better when he look at some other statistics that are not cumulative. 

While Puckett's career WAR is about 20 points lower than the average Hall of Fame center fielder (50 WAR for Puckett vs 70 WAR average for HOF center fielder), his 7 year peak WAR as measured by the JAWS rating system has Puckett rated at 37 compared to 44 for the average.  The numbers are slightly below average, but I can handle a big Hall of Famer, and Puckett certainly belongs.

Outside of the big numbers, one of the first seasons I really enjoyed watching Puckett play was the 1991 postseason.  Puckett's overall postseason numbers were not great, and he did not take home any hardware, but he had a pretty impact on helping the Twins capture the team's, and Puckett's, second World Series ring.

While many people remember the Puckett home run that ended Game 6 of that World Series I always liked the potentially game saving catch that Puckett made on Ron Gant better:

Great catch!

Favorite Card-
So many good Puckett cards to choose from.  I already picked two of his rookies, so I will go with his 1993 Topps giant bat card.  Posted is the Topps Gold Variation. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Agony of Defeat

I have been on the lookout for a few Triple Threads over the past weeks when I stumbled upon a rather curious looking card of Cardinals third baseman David Freese.  The jersey pieces on the card appeared slightly off-white and I was hoping that I might land my first Cardinals card featuring a relic piece from the team's newly added third jersey.

The Cardinals had been one of the last team's to add a third jersey, but rather than adding a solid red or blue top, the team opted for an old fashion creme colored jersey.  Several teams, such as the Giants and Braves, have added these to their closets in the past year, so the Cardinals joined the pack.  Here's what the Cardinals version looked like in case you've not seen it:

While the third jersey still has the birds on the bat, it has switched out the word "Cardinals" for the word "St. Louis".  I woke up sometime around 4:30 this morning and it's now almost 11, otherwise I would go ahead and tell you the last time the Cardinals jersey said anything other than Cardinals on the front.  It's been a really, really long long time.  Really long.

Anyway, landing a Cardinals card with a relic of the third jersey would be really coll and a first for my collection.  I tracked the card for a few days and won this auction for a little more than $6 in hopes that the card would be the first of many creme colored Cardinals relics in my collection.  This is what the card looked like on Ebay.

After paying for the card I was eagerly awaiting its arrival in my mailbox.  Today was the day.  I ripped up the envelope and took the card out to check out the relics, paying special attention to the Mr. Freese. The card looks like this up close...

While I was counting on creme colored a closer inspection of the card shows that the relic patches have more of a pink hint to them, than a creme color.  Meaning that more likely than not, someone on the Cardinals clubhouse staff mixed in a red sock into a load of home white jerseys.  Don't get me wrong, it's still a really unique card, but it was not the sort of unique that I was aiming for in going after this card.  Find the David Freese pink relic card can best be summed up by this quote:

So, as it turns out I am still looking for my first creme colored Cardinals relic.  At least, in getting my hopes up, I created the framework for a blog post for when that special card comes into my collection.  Until then, we can't be too gloomy, there was another cool card in the package besides my pink David Freese: 

2013 Triple Threads Matt Holliday 7 Piece Relic "11 Champs" 

This is one of the better Cardinals cards in the Triple Threads set this year and I am really happy to add this card to my collection.  Holliday was the starting left-fielder for the Cardinals during the 2011 season when the Cardinals beat the Rangers to win the World Series.  Holliday, being the model of consistency, put together his usual solid season.  Luckily, a Yankees fan on YouTube managed to put his highlights from the 2011into a single video with some suspect music.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Top 50 On Cardboard- #24 Buster Posey

My Top 50 On Cardboard 
Buster Posey

2010 Upper Deck Buster Posey RC 

This is one of the higher young players on my list.  There is one more who is slightly higher, but Posey belongs on this list for two reasons.  First, he's a really good player with a Hall of Fame trajectory to his career and he's only 26 and already won an MVP award, batting crown, and two World Series rings.  Posey has a ton of rookie cards if you are looking to pick one up.  I flipped through my boxes before making this post trying to find one and found literally twenty different cards to choose from for my post.  They range greatly in price, but if you are looking for just a basic Posey rookie card you should have no difficulty pulling that off for anything more than $5.

Hobby Impact-
Posey definitely has a pretty large hobby presence.  His cards are popular and you will definitely pay a pretty price for anything that is low run or autographed, or a combination of the two.  I liken Posey's hobby presence in many ways to Cal Ripken.  He's one of those players who collectors seem to universally enjoy, maybe not in Dodger land, and collectors are happy to land a good Posey card whenever, or however they can get their hands on one.  I do not specifically collect Posey cards, but I have two Posey cards which I thoroughly enjoy owning and would not consider trading or selling unless my socks were knocked off.

I will share, but both cards have already been on my blog in the past.

2008 Donruss Elite Collegiate Patches Buster Posey

I was on the lookout for one of these cards for a few years and finally tracked one down last year.  My first introduction to Buster Posey happened while he was in college playing for Florida State.  Living in the middle of the conference, within an hour of the four North Carolina schools, I heard plenty about the play of Buster Posey a few years back.  I really enjoyed getting the chance to see him a few times over the course of his college career.  These are really great looking cards and a great add for fans of college baseball.  Probably my favorite Posey autograph in my collection.

2013 Topps World Series Champions Buster Posey Patch/Autograph 

My other really cool Posey autograph comes from this year's Topps base set after the Giants won the World Series.  The patch is spectacular, but I am not a fan of the sticker autograph on a high end card.  Either way, both cards are awesome and a little taste of what collectors can find floating around from the Giants All-Star catcher.

The bottom line is that Posey cards are fun to collect and a blast to find.  There are a lot of unique cards out there and they can fit into any budget if you are willing to be patient and look hard.  If you are in the small minority of people who dump your Posey cards when you land something good, you know where to find me.

On The Field-
This one is a little bit harder to do with a young player, but let's try it out.  It would be really easy for me to sit here and point to the fact that Posey has already won two World Series rings during his brief career, but lots of players win rings and they do not necessarily contribute much to the cause.  See Ryan Dempster this year.  Posey has won two rings and had plenty to do with helping the Giants reach the pinnacle of Major League Baseball twice.

This is usually the point in the post when I point out where a player ranks on the JAWS rating system, or who their comparable Hall of Fame caliber players are on Baseball Reference and you are probably thinking I might not do that with a really young player like Posey.  You are wrong, but with young players, they always need time.  Meaning if Posey plays at his current level over an extended period of time I think there is no reason why he will not reach a really good place in his career which will merit Hall of Fame consideration.

Cureently Posey is the 86th best catcher all-time in the history of Major League Baseball.  With a career WAR of 17.5 he just behind Paul LoDuca and Ramon Hernanez.  Sounds pretty missable until you realize that Posey has equaled two guys who have basically played in the Majors for a decade in what amounts to a three year career.  In fact, the average Hall of Fame catcher has a career WAR just above 50, so Posey is already nearing the mid-point for reaching that career total.

If you want to eliminate the longevity factor with Posey, which handicaps him, we can use average OPS+ to compare him to the rest of the catchers in MLB history.  The list of players ahead of Posey on that list is incredibly short: Mike Piazza.  That's it.  He's actually tied with Joe Mauer, but with his move to first base next season, Posey will have no trouble passing him as he enters the prime of his career.  Posey, at this point in his career, ranks about 16 to 17 points ahead of the highest Hall of Fame catchers in terms of OPS+ with the highest two notable being Johnny Bench and Bill Dickey.

As with all players, this all depends on them staying healthy and playing long enough to accumulate some numbers over time.  While Posey has suffered one bad injury, and missed a chunk of the season, I actually view him as a pretty durable player.

Favorite Card-
There are several direction I could here, but I am going to highlight another one of Posey's rookie cards.  Topps put out the National Chicle set for one year, in 2010, and based the set off of the 1935 football card set with the same name.  Posey was included in the set, along with several other significant rookies.  The Posey card looked like this:

2010 Topps National Chicle Buster Posey RC

Definitely a unique card for one of Topps vintage throwback sets.  I think that Turkey Red and Ginter sometimes have similar feels in terms of the pictures and artwork.  National Chicle was just completely different.  I love the painted backgrounds with the different shapes and colors the artists used for the cards.  This Posey card has always been amongst my favorites in the set.  The Madison Bumgarner is awesome.  This is a very affordable rookie of Posey too.  Again, $5 or less will put this card into your collection.

New Project: 1999 Skybox Molten Metal Xplosion Set

It's been awhile since I have started a new collection project on here.  I think I completed one with the 1998 Topps Tek set earlier this year, but also recall letting one go in the way of the 2001 Topps Archives set.  Time to try another and stick with it to the end.  I made a post last week about the 1999 Skybox Molten Metal set and really enjoyed looking at the cards.  I especially liked the Xplosion parallel set which is made up of metal cards.  Collectors received a few per box.

1999 Skybox Molten Metal Xplosion Cal Ripken 

The set is a total of 150 cards.  Currently I have the following cards:

2. Canseco 4. Palmeiro 5. Renteria 10. O'Neill 17. Higginson 27. Schilling 38. Colon 43. Alou 45. Floyd 49. Alomar Jr. 54. Cirillo 56. Cruz Jr. 60. Milton 63. Thompson 64. Fullmer 65. Grissom 70. Hidalgo 74. Clement 75. Karros 76. Pavano 80. Martinez 83. Ventura 86. Olerud 89. McGriff 90. Boggs 92. Sheffield 101. Sheffield 106. Salmon 107. Belle 109. Lee 112. Rodriguez 118. Lofton 119. Barrett 127. Kida 128. Helton 131. Drew 132. Ripken 142. Jeter 148. Bagwell

If you're counting at home that's a total of 39 and I have a few more that I have tracked down and have en route.  Any help on the set would be much appreciated since I have 111 more cards to track down.  

and for no reason, here's Jason Kipnis....

I am usually all over the Triple Threads release and am quick to pick up cards of all my favorites.  Last year the product seemed to get a little bit repetitive.  For example, I rushed out to find a Matt Kemp card and found that the majority of his cards had the "Bison" nickname spelled out in jersey pieces.  Kemp does have a cool nickname, but Topps has issued that same card at least four years in row.  There are only so many "Bison" cards I can have in my collection, as cool of a player as Matt Kemp is.

I searched my favorite two target teams too and found the same problems with the Cards and Rays Triple Threads cards with the exception of Matt Holliday.  Longoria is still Longo or Long Beach, David Freese is still Mr Freese or the 2011 WSMVP, and David Price is still the first pick in the 2007 draft.  All of these cards have been made multiple times.

Further, the same problems with player selection, in regards to the autograph checklist, still plague the Triple Threads set.  The Cardinals have Jon Jay, Matt Holliday (exchange), Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal (with weird green jersey pieces), Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Beltran (relics only).  The Rays have Wil Myers, Chris Archer, Longoria, Alex Cobb, Odorizzi, Matt Moore, and Zobrist and Jennings as relic only cards.  Where's the variety?

Why not throw in a Tim Beckham on the Rays or maybe another prospect besides Odorizzi.  Enny Romero?  Pretty good choice right there.  Topps could have added Wacha, Joe Kelly, or for a prospect, Kolten Wong to it's Cardinals checklist.  The Cardinals could also have a deeper checklist if Topps got Ozzie Smith or Red Scheondienst to sign a few cards.  While the Rays are a newer franchise I am sure Topps could make a cool Fred McGriff Triple Threads card.

So, after searching long and hard and debating about where to put my Triple Threads money I made this decision: I will buy a few choice Triple Threads cards and target some of the Matt Holliday cards with different sayings on them to add to my collection.  The rest of my money and trade bait cards will roll over towards another project.  So, without further adieu here's my first Triple Threads card of 2013.

2013 Topps Triple Threads Jason Kipnis Autograph 

While this card is one of the more common Triple Threads cards, it is a great looking card.  I actually do not own a Jason Kipnis autograph at the moment and have always thought pretty highly of him.  If memory serves correctly he was on a completely loaded Arizona State team, but somehow slid past a bunch of his teammates to the Indians in the second round of the draft.  The Sun Devils draftees that year included Jordan Swagerty, Mike Leake, and Seth Blair.  The year before the Sun Devils also had Ike Davis and Brett "The Walrus" Wallace.

Kipnis has become the best of the bunch and is one of the better offensive middle infielders in the American League.  He's not Robinson Cano or anything, but he posted an OPS+ of 133 and a WAR of almost 6 last season.  This autograph cost me less than $10.  A solid investment considering the potential Kipnis has shown during his two plus seasons in the Majors.  More Triple Threads later this week.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Buy Local #5: Roger Craig

I do not do a lot of vintage cards on my blog, nor do I bring in a lot of players who played before the 80s, but it's really hard to do a series of posts on local North Carolina players and not mention the legendary Roger Craig.  Craig is best known for his role in helping the 1950s Dodgers teams to a pair of World Series titles in 1955 and 1959, and also for leading the San Francisco Giants as their manager in the late 80s and early 90s.

Roger Craig grew up in Durham, North Carolina and had a job as the bat boy for Durham Bulls at the time.  The Bulls have never listed Roger Craig as an official alumni, but there is a sidewalk square outside of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park which recognizes the Durham native.  

After graduating from high school, Roger Craig took a basketball scholarship to play at NC State and also ended up playing on the baseball team while he was there.  The Dodgers signed Craig as an amateur free agent in 1950.  His career was delayed when he was drafted for the Korean War, but by the summer of 1955 he was up in the Majors playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

1956 Topps Roger Craig 

Craig first appeared on cardboard during the summer of 1956, a year after he helped the 1955 Dodgers win the World Series by winning the pivotal game 5 against the Yankees.  One of the first vintage cards I ever bought when I moved to North Carolina was this copy of Craig's rookie card.  There used to be a card shop on Duke Street north of I-85 when I moved to Durham in the fall of 2005.  One of my first trips into the store,  the owner told me that I could not officially be a baseball fan in North Carolina without a copy of a Craig rookie.  He gave me a bargain and sold me this excellent copy for $10.  I have a few extra copies now, but it's definitely a really cool card to own.  

1963 Topps Roger Craig 

Roger Craig was also pretty famous for being one of the original New York Mets.  He spent the 1962 and 1963 seasons with the Mets and posted a record of 15-46 during his two season stay in Queens.  Despite leading the National League in loses both seasons with 22 and 24 loses, Craig was really not that bad of a pitcher.  In fact, between the two seasons he posted a WAR north of 5 with 3.0 number in 1962.  Just to give that a modern comparison, Shelby Miller won 15 games last season with the Cardinals and had a WAR of 3.  

Craig did make an appearance with the 1964 Cardinals and pitched two games in relief during the World Series.  The ring with the Cardinals was his third and final as a player.  Craig made a few minor league appearances in the late sixties, but was basically retired from baseball.  He went into coaching and ended up have several pitching coach gigs with the Padres, Astros, and Tigers.  The Tigers job gave Craig his fourth ring during the 1984 season.

Of course, many modern collectors probably best know Roger Craig as the manager of the Giants during the late 1980s and early 1990s.  He led the Giants to the playoffs in 1987, where the team missed out on the World Series by one game, and again in 1989, when the Giants won the National League and appeared in the World Series against the A's.

Craig retired from baseball in 1992, but has still been pretty active around baseball.  IBaseball recently posted a cool interview with Craig on their YouTube channel and he still shows up on baseball cards from time to time.  He even signs a few from time to time.

2001 Fleer Greats of the Game Roger Craig Autograph