Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Topps Jumbo Box Break Inserts- Part 1

I am breaking down my 2014 Topps Jumbo Box Break into a couple posts.  So much to talk about within one box of ten giant 50 card packs.  My first post will focus on the inserts, second on my hit cards, and the final post will be on the base set and parallels.  Before I begin showing off my cards a big thank you to Jimmy at Big D's for getting me the jumbo box of Topps cards.  Walking into a local card shop and buying a box of cards was awesome. 

Let's look at the inserts that came in my Jumbo Box:

50 Years Of The Draft: (10 Card Set)

I really like these cards.  The Griffey card was in one of my first packs and really caught my eye.  Topps seems to have a heavy rookie theme this year and have included this draft set as part of theme.  I like that the photograph in the pictures fits the early part of the players career.  Bench wearing an odd number instead of his retired 5, Griffey looking like he's fresh out of high school, and Price....looks the same, but he's got a World Series patch on his sleeve.  That puts the picture early in his career.  Cool insert and fits great with some of the themes running through the Topps set.  I am still missing seven cards including a Rays card of Raleigh native Josh Hamilton.

1989 Topps Mini Die-Cut: 50 Card Set

I spent a little bit of time talking about these in my first glance yesterday.  Really cool cards, but after five rack packs and one jumbo box I stand at 6 of the 50 cards in the set.  I am likely going to be piecing this set together for the next few weeks.  I was really happy to get the Puig out of the way, but will be posting more of these soon.  In fact I went ahead and picked up the Wainwright, Lee Smith, and Ozzie Smith cards this afternoon to fill in my Cardinals portion of this set.

Upper Class (50 Card Set)

Sticking with the rookie theme that runs throughout the 2014 Topps set, the Upper Class set highlights players in their rookie class year.  Hence the card with Hanley Ramirez on the Marlins and Matt Holliday on the Rockies.  This is a larger insert set, but seems like the cards are pretty easy to chase down on Ebay.  In fact, if I just wanted to buy the whole insert set it would not be too expensive.  That also would not be very much fun.  This card set will probably be on the back burner, but I will still put the set together at some point.  Similar to the Draft set I like that Topps is using time period appropriate photography.  Well played.

The Future Is Now (30 Cards)

Again rookie theme.  These cards remind me a bit of the old Topps Gallery cards which came out in the late 90s.  I think that the cards actually have real photographs, but Topps did something cool with them.  Not sure.  This set is also pretty easy to put together and at some point I will fill this one in, but in the mean time...minis. 

Topps All Rookie Cup Team (10 Cards)
This set I am going to put together pretty quickly, but I would also like to pick up a few of the manufactured patch cards that Topps has dovetailed with this insert set.  There is also an autograph and relic version of these cards.  Worth checking out.  I have managed to land a Cardinals manu last night and will post in a few days.  
Before They Were Great  (10 Cards)
Rookies.  Again.  Cool photography, but the card stock that Topps used for this set is pretty awesome.  The cards are a very thick stock and have a good deal of laminate.  Basically, it's a cool set with great card stock.  Worth picking up, but probably not a priority. 

Last one for now, and I was surprised to find these...

Buybacks.  Always nice to get some old Topps cards in a box of cards.  Why are they in this years Topps cards?  I am not sure, but old cards are always fun to run across. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Farewell Puma

I first encountered Lance Berkman on his 1997 Bowman card.  It's a pretty unique card shot outside of the AstroDome with the former Rice star leaning on the front of an old Ford pickup truck.  There were plenty of other cool players in the set at the time, so this card was filed away with the rest of my Bowman cards that year and remembered more as a curiosity.  Aramis Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, and Vernon Wells were the big names in this set when it was first released and the immediate years afterwards.

Just like all the other big names in the 1997 Bowman set, Berkman also made it up to the majors.  However, unlike players like Vernon Wells and Aramis Ramirez, Lance Berkman was actually able to play for a good team.  Not many people remember how good some of the late 90s and early 2000s Astros teams were because they did not make it far in the playoffs outside of the 2005 World Series.  The teams included future Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent,  and Craig Biggio.  Throw in a year of Carlos Beltran and a bunch of other great players like Mike Hampton, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Moises Alou, and Billy Wagner.

While all kinds of good players came and went in Houston, Berkman ended up playing a total of 12 years for the Astros and posted a line of .293/.406/.573 with 366 home runs, 422 doubles, and an OPS+ of 146.  I saw plenty of Cardinals/Astros games during those days and always had a good amount of respect for Berkman.  He was a good player, but you could tell that he had a good time playing the game.  As a fan, he was a fun player to watch.


For years he was quietly the face of Astros.  Bagwell and Biggio slowly faded away, but Berkman kept plugging away.  In fact, one of his best seasons came during the 2006 season when he replaced Jeff Bagwell at first base for the Astros.  Bekrman's 2006 season was .315/.420/.621 with 45 home runs and 136 RBIs.  There were a few more good years in Houston until he was traded away to the Yankees during the 2010 season.  I did not give the Puma much of a thought once he was off the Astros until I came across a curious headline on MLB Trade Rumors one evening.

At first I thought the signing was a bit of a joke.  Perhaps Berkman had signed on to be a bench player. However, Berkman ended up in the outfield.  Honestly, I know I was not the only Cardinals fan who cringed a little bit at the thought of The Big Puma roaming the outfield for the Cardinals.  Berkman ended up having a great year, and by all accounts, was a key factor to keeping the team loose during their unexpected playoff run.  In the end, I am not sure Cardinals fans will remember the regular season Berkman enjoyed as much as his key Game 6 game tying hit during the 2011 World Series.

I was sad to hear that Berkman decided to call it a career earlier this week, but I think it was time for Lance to hang them up.  After the 2011 season, he played a 2012 season with the Cardinals and the 2013 season with the Rangers.  Berkman's time on the field was limited during both seasons do to injuries.  Clearly it was time to go.

Even though Berkman is retiring I will still continue to collect his cards.  I picked up quite a few during his two years in St. Louis and was surprised at how many cards I had from his days in Houston.  If you are looking for a good 90s/2000s player to collect you cannot go wrong throwing a few Berkman cards into your collection.  His rookie card, mentioned above, is quite inexpensive and readily available.  Autographs aren't hard to find either and are generally pretty cheap.  You want a nice on-card Berkman autograph you are probably going to be able to find one for less than $20.  Relics, patches, all pretty cheap.

Farewell Puma, you will be missed.

Quick Glance At 2014 Topps Cards

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Favorite Old Timer

There is not a lot of vintage stuff that pops up on my blog space, but I do dabble in older players from time to time.  Mainly, I try to pick up their autographs.  Not to say that I just run out and grab autographs of random retired baseball players, I try to make sure I know something about the player.  I read, peruse the internet, watch a lot of documentaries and usually have a list of some old guys whom I like to add to my collection.  My biggest gap in this part of my collection is something featuring Roger Maris in a Cardinals uniform besides a late 60s Topps cards.  Maybe one of those nice Sterling cards with all the relic pieces?  Please Topps.

One of my all-time favorite ambassadors of the game from yesteryear is the great Buck O'Neill.  I had a chance to hear him talk once shortly after college.  Seemed like a really cool guy with a good story, so I picked up a copy of one of his autographs.

2001 Fleer Greats of the Game Buck O'Neill Autograph 

The bulk of O'Neill's playing career was spent playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues.  While the stats were a little bit iffy, Buck was a great hitter and is believed to have had a batting average in the high .300s.  Buck O'Neill also managed the Monarchs during the downfall of the Negro Leagues and was able to successfully lead the team to a few championships.  Apparently there were some disputes with the titles.  You can research the disputes yourself, but basically think college football with baseball teams.

O'Neill went on to work with the Chicago Cubs as a scout and was able to sign Lou Brock to a contract and was also involved in helping the team land Ernie Banks.  Some places claim he signed Banks, while others just say he knew Banks from his time as a manager and was an influence in getting him to sign with the Cubs.  His most prominent and visible roles came later in life when he starred in Ken Burns documentary Baseball.

Buck O'Neill was also key in setting up the Negro League Hall of Fame in Kansas City.  While I have not had a chance to visit yet, it is definitely on my to do list and is a two hour drive from my parents house.  Through his work at the museum O'Neill still had plenty of interaction with former players and modern players too.  Ichiro was apparently a big fan and huge admirer of Buck and would always make time to talk baseball with him when the Mariners made trips into Kansas City.

I encourage you to take a little bit of time to search the internet and check out some of the great sound bits, video clips, and articles about this baseball Hall of Famer.   Buck always had plenty to share and plenty to say.  Well worth your time.  If you like what you hear and enjoy Buck O'Neill be sure to check out some of his autographs.  He signed a few things in the late 90s, which can be pricey at times, but a good piece of history for your collection.

Clearly You Don't Care

The release of 2014 Topps is slated for later in the week and collectors are gearing up to chase down the base set, inserts, autographs, and relics.  However, the 2014 Topps cards have already started to pop up on Ebay.  I've have already written about this problem before and the issues early releases cause huge problems for legitimate card seller including local card shops, internet vendors, case breakers, and other Ebay sellers.  

Sellers who post and sell cards before the release date are able to get a leg up on the competition for dollars in the secondary card market, but can also negatively effect the card market and make it difficult to judge.  For example, the 2013 Gypsy Queen cards were readily available last year well before the scheduled release date.  I was able to buy several blasters at the Wal-Mart in Apex, North Carolina a week ahead of time.  I put together a chunk of the set and started searching around for the holes in my set.  

One of the cards I really chased early on was a Matt Carpenter autograph.  Pre-release sales put the cards of the Cardinals second baseman over $25.  After the release the cards sank back down under $10.  The card has now rebounded and is selling for around $20.  Crazy market fluctuations are just one of the draw backs.  So why should we tolerate this as a community of collectors?  We are going to all have a crack at the cards eventually....

While Topps does not share all of the blame with these issues they could certainly do much more to stop cards from leaking out onto the market early.  For example, the person who is selling the 2014 Topps cards currently listed on Ebay lists their location as Monroe, Washington.  Google search Monroe, Washington and you can find only a few hobby card shops within the area.  I am sure Topps has enough leverage over distributors that they can put pressure on the card shops in the area not leak product to the secondary market early and undercut legitimate people in the card business.  

While I am sure Topps probably has a clear policy regarding pre-sales there are clearly those who do not follow the policy and there is little Topps does to enforce its policy to help out local card shops and legit sellers.  They should also consider working with internet based sellers who do not sell sports cards as their primary interest.  For example, while Ebay seems to let pre-sale cards onto their site, card driven secondary market sites like Check Out My Cards and Collector Revolution do a much better job of enforcing the release dates.  Want some 2014 Topps cards this week?  Don't visit these two websites...

On COMC the only thing that comes up after searching for 2014 Topps is the multi-sport set of Olympics cards that Topps put out awhile ago.  The side bar with the category breakdown shows only Multisport.  So, while Topps does not enforce it's policies COMC clearly cares enough about their customers to put their foot down and stop the sale of single cards early.  

Collector Revolution is also not showing any 2014 Topps cards for sale ahead of time.  Meaning that they are also following whatever release date policies issues with their products.  Honestly the whole situation with Topps and their problems policing release dates has come to the point where a few too many good case busters and card shops are getting overly frustrated.  The past decade has been hard on the hobby, the least Topps can do is step up and help the people that put cards into the hands of collectors...legitimately.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Marlins Miggy

Most people remember the Miguel Cabrera years on the Marlins, but they seem to be a little less popular with collectors than his days with the Tigers.  I like watching Miggy with the Tigers, so I cannot say I blame collectors for putting a little bit of a premium on his cards wearing the English D.  It still does not change the fact that he has a great deal of autographs with the Marlins, or the fact that his Marlins autographs are still pretty cool.   Last week I had a chance to put a new Miggy autograph in my collection.

2005 Topps Miguel Cabrera Autograph 

To his credit Miguel Cabrera still signs quite a bit for card companies, but he has been a very good signer for most of his career.  He has a great signature and has been relatively consistent for the majority of his career.  There are some slight difference with his very early autographs, but generally all very nice and tons of on-card autographs.

On the field Cabrera was still a very good player for the Marlins, but was a notch below the numbers he has posted in Detroit.  While in Miami Miggy posted a very good line of .313/.388/.588 with 138 home runs in 720 games.  He has played one more season in Detroit, but has posted a line of .327/.407/.588 with the Tigers with more than 200 home runs.  Still very healthy line as a Marlin.

Perhaps the best part of Miggy's career as a Marlin came during the 2003 National League Championship Series.  Most people remember the Bartman incident, but few people remember that the Cubs still had a chance to win Game 7 of that series.  Cabrera drove in 4 runs for the Marlins in Game 7 including a 3 run homer in the first and the game tying RBI in the 5.  The Marlins would later take the lead and go on to win the World Series.  More importantly the Cubs were shut out of any postseason bling.

Prime Time

2003 Fleer EX Deion Sanders Jersey/Autograph 

The best autograph of a football player in my collection.  Deion Sanders was a very talented athlete in his prime, but was clearly a much better football player than a baseball player.  I am not saying that Deion was bad at baseball, but almost exclusively a one tool baseball player.  Speed.  His early years in Atlanta were probably his best time spent in baseball.  I would specifically point out his 1992 season where he helped the Atlanta Braves win the National League pennant.  During that season "Prime Time" lead the National League in triples, posted more than 20 steals, and registered an OPS+ of 130.  
During the mid 90s Deion focused more on football, but always seemed to show up somewhere every summer during the baseball season.  My best memories of Sanders after his time with the Braves was a Red.  He did a cool Jackie Robinson tribute with his uniform in 1997.  I remember seeing him hit a home run off of Matt Morris, run really slowly around the bases with huge turns, and then get booed.  Somewhere Carlton Fisk was irked.  

While this does not crack the list of great cards in my collection it's certainly a very interesting card and I am happy to add it.  Topps has actually started producing autographs of Deion which feature him as a Brave.  Pretty nice on card autographs in good products.  Deion has also popped in a few Panini products.  One of them features him as a Yankee, which is fine, but another has him as a logoless Giant.  Not cool.  Given the increase in signed Deion cards, I would guess his value will come down a bit in the coming years.  Great autograph to pick up if you watched baseball during the 90s.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Fabulous Yadier Molina

I have had a really dull week as far as posting goes.  School has started back up and has kept me fairly busy, but this has also been a little bit of a calm period before the 2014 products start hitting the shelves in roughly one week.  I am really to see what the new Topps has in store for the hobby.  In the meantime, I am filling the void by sorting out cards into sets, selling off some doubles, and searching out a few things I could use for the collection.

I managed to pick up a really good piece last week and was waiting for it to show in the mail.  Today was my day.  Here's my new card:

2006 Upper Deck Yadier Molina Autograph 

This is actually my second copy of this card, but I had the opportunity to trade for this card and really did not mind parting with Marlins autographs for a chance at a Molina autograph.  While Yadi has become a great player on the field he has always been a pretty popular and expensive figure around the baseball card hobby.

The main driver for the prices of Molina cards is clearly the small quantity of his cards out on the secondary market.  For example there are several Molina autographs from early in his career in 2004, 2005, and 2006 sets.  However, Molina has basically signed nothing since 2006.  Ask people who chase autographs and they will tell you that Yadi is nearly impossible at the park too.  In fact, this year is the first year in several that he has actually shown up at the Cardinals Winter Warm Up and signed autographs.  The quantity of Molina autographs is just flat out low.

Collectors looking for Molina autographs should generally commit a minimum of $50 towards landing a copy.  Every once in awhile one will fall short of $50 on Ebay or COMC, but it's really rare.  Especially since a good number of his autographs are actually rookie cards.  Low print run autographs of Molina can frequently approach $100.

Looking for Ben and Jose?  They are in here....

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sterling Bird Signatures

I picked up a pair of cool Bowman Sterling autographs of two Cardinals prospects.  I am always a little bit leery of Bowman Sterling cards.  High price tag with cards that can be easy to find with high print runs and low prices.  It's a great product to let someone else open and then swoop in to pick up the cards.  Yes, opening packs of cards is fun and I could potentially pull something really sweet.  However, I have been burned too many times with these sorts of products.

A month or so after the product was released I managed to pick up a cool pair of autographs at a really good price.  First up is a cool card that any prospect collector would love to have in their collection.  The best prospect in baseball.....

 2013 Bowman Sterling Oscar Taveras Autograph

Taveras has a bit of a lost season in 2013 due to an injury to his ankle, but should be back in 2014.  I am not sure if he is going to be in Memphis to start, or on the bench in St. Louis.  I would guess that even if Taveras ends up in the PCL at the beginning of the season, he will be in St. Louis at some point during the 2014 season.  Taveras is an excellent hitter and has hit for a high average at every level.  His power has increased every year he has played in the minors, so the Cardinals are probably hoping for an improvement over his 22 he posted in 2012.  Taveras is pretty popular in he hobby, but the prices of his autographs has cooled over the last year. 

2013 Bowman Sterling Robert Kaminsky Autograph

Kaminksy is not as well known as some of the other prospects in the Cardinals system, but I think he has a pretty good shot to be a good contributor the team in the future.  The Cardinals drafted Kaminsky out of high school in New Jersey, but he had a scholarship offer and had committed to play baseball at North Carolina.  After being selected in the first round, Kaminsky skipped college to play for the Cardinals.  Spend a little time reading up on Kaminsky and you will find he's got three pitches including a fastball, curve, and change-up.  The curve ball is supposedly spectacular.  I am hoping to see Kaminsky in St. Louis in the near future.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Worst Cardinal In My Collection

I have a couple of posts that I owe a couple of different people I am going to try to take care of over the next few days.  First up is a question I was asked a month or two ago and it took me awhile to narrow down the list to one finalist.  I had actually thought about making my list favorite Cardinals into a list of four or five, but one player clearly stood out for both his poor play and horrendous behavior.  So, my least favorite Cardinal in my collection....

2002 Upper Deck Game-Worn Gems Tino Martinez Jersey

Tino Martinez and it's not even close.  When I was asked the question he was the first name that popped into my mind, but I took my time to make sure I wasn't jumping to a quick judgement.  I will say this up front: I really do not like Tino Martinez.  Here's a little background information on the Tino Martinez Cardinals years.  Mark McGwire's final season with the Cardinals was in 2001.  At the time Albert Pujols was a third baseman.  Pujols did play the outfield starting in 2002 to make room for Placido Polanco at third.  All of this meant that first base was open.  The Cardinals signed Tino Martinez to a three year 21 million dollar contract on December 18th, 2001. 

It did not take Martinez long to be the well deserved goat on the 2002 Cardinals.  Tino seemed to excel at hitting into double plays and killing rallies.  Tino failed to hit a single home run during his first month on the Cardinals and posted the incredible line of .221/.370/.284 with one home run in high leverage situations.  Just for comparison utility player Eli Marrero posted a .364/.416/.662 with 6 home runs. 

And it goes downhill from there.  Tino managed to publicly miss New York and wonder out loud during an interview if Yankees fans were better than Cardinals fans.  There was also his awesome performance in the playoffs when he posted a 2 for 25 line in the 2002 postseason for the Cardinals with exactly no extra base hits.  Most Cardinals fans doubted Martinez love for St. Louis.  His baseball cards did not help. 

2002 Upper Deck Jersey Tino Martinez

The Yankee relic pieces on Martinez cards were noted by most Cardinals fans and made these cards just as unpopular in the hobby shops as Martinez play on the field.  2003 roled in and Martinez was slowly phased out by the Cardinals.  The Cardinals frequently subbed Martinez out of games in favor of moving Pujols to first base and putting So Taguchi and Kerry Robinson in left field for defense.  The sole highlight of Tino's time with the Cardinals came when he got into a fight with Miguel Batista.  No video available, only this picture from 

Since his retirement from baseball Tino has taken up coaching, but resigned from his last gig as the Marlins hitting coach for abusing players. 

Autograph: $0.21

The Cardinals have had a pretty quiet off-season this year.  They signed shortstop Jhonny Peralta and traded David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels in exchange for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.  I guess they also signed Mark Ellis, but generally quiet.  One of the things I really look forward to every December/January is running around trying to track down a few new cards of the Cardinals new players.  The last is really short this year.

I already had a few Peralta's before the off-season started and was happy to add a little bit nicer card of the new Cardinals shortstop at a relatively low cost. I also managed to pick up a couple Grichuk cards along the way too.  That narrowed my shopping list down to Mark Ellis and Peter Bourjos.  A qucik check of my card collection shows I already own a Mark Ellis autograph or two, but we might upgrade later this spring.  Bourjos I am a little bit short on.  In fact, I do not own a Bourjos card outside of base cards. 

I priced out his autographs and found two different options out on the secondary market.  One card was a 2007 Bowman which frequently sold for $20 or more and a 2013 Panini Prizm autograph.  The Prizm autograph sells for less than $10.  While I appreciate the player the Cardinals might have landed in Bourjos I am not sure that he is a player worth spending $20 on for an autograph.  At the same time I also do not really dig the logoless cards put out by Panini.  The dilemma. 

Luckily I found a way out of this pickle.  I have been working on pairing down some player lots recently, so most of my Ebay time recently has been spent on the selling side.  Throw in a lack of new releases and I have not really sought out any new cards recently outside of monitoring some of my usual searches.  Like Ray Lankford.  Ebay grew impatient with me and sent me a remainder to spend my Ebay Bucks.  That's like free money.  Sort of.

2013 Panini Prism Peter Bourjos Autograph

Bourjos problem solved.  This bland logoless copy of a 2013 Panini Prizm autograph ended up costing me a whole $0.21 after paying for the card and shipping.  I think it's money well spent and I can now say that I own a Peter Bourjos autograph and did not pay $20 for it. 

Side thought-Did Panini buy the naming rights for the old Pacific card lines?  The Prizm concept seems pretty close Pacific Prism cards.  I noticed while searching around while writing this article that Panini has also put out a set of crown shaped cards and they are named Crown Royale.  Cheap Pacific knockoff?   Anyone know?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Trade Day At Big D's

My local card shop, Big D's Sports Cards in Raleigh, hosted their first trade day this weekend.  It had been awhile since I had attended a trade day, so I was really pumped up to see what a trade day would look like at my new favorite local card shop.  I had attended a few back in my St. Louis days, but Trade Days can be hard when everyone collects the Cardinals.  More of a Show and Tell Day, then trading.  I packed up a few boxes of autographs and relics cards, loaded them into a laundry basket, and headed out for the store. 

The atmosphere of the Big D's was great as usual.  There was a nice gathering of some of the store regulars to trade, the store owner Jimmy ordered some pizza, and the Broncos-Patriots AFC championship game was on in the store.  We had a great time trading, talking sports, and watching some football.  At the end of my time in the store I walked away with 4 Cardinals related cards for my collection.  Here are my latest four Cardinals related cards courtesy of the 1st Trade Day at Big D's Sports Cards:

2013 Bowman Hometown Stephen Piscotty

I started out picking up two smaller cards.  The first of the cards was this cool looking Bowman Hometowns Stephen Piscotty.  I had picked up a Trevor Rosenthal card like this last summer with a Missouri flag in the background.  I also have a copy of the Seth Maness card floating around which has a North Carolina flag.  I don't have a California connection, but Piscotty showed some pop and great plate discipline in two minor league stops last summer.  He's likely to end up in Double-A Springfield or Triple A Memphis to start the season.  He's a good hitter and his not far off from St. Louis, good investment. 

1993 Topps Black Gold Ozzie Smith

My other small pickup was an Ozzie Smith Black Gold card out of the 1993 Topps set.  This was the first Topps insert set featuring the gold concept which the company has used ad nauseum over the past two decades on their cards.  The 1993 insert set was put out in two 22 card series with 11 of each set belonging to National League players and the other 11 belonging to American Leaguers.   I did not have an Ozzie yet, so why not now. 

2007 UD Elements Matt Holliday Jersey/Auto

This card I can thank the store owner Jimmy for finding me.  He saw my post earlier in the week on these cards and had givenme the heads up on Twitter that he had the missing copy needed to finish off my run of Matt Holliday autographs from this set.  I love the purple pinstripe on the jersey swatch.  Last one for today....

2013 Topps Tribute Terry Pendleton Autograph

Pendelton won an MVP and a batting title in Atlanta, but actually started his career for the Cardinals and was their starting third baseman during their 1985 and 1987 World Series runs.  He was not much of a hitter during his time with the Cardinals, but was a good glove man at the corner.  I believe St. Louis Post Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz once described Pendleton as a player who could "field like Brooks Robinson, but hit like Brooke Shields"  Terry Pendleton ended up have a nice overall career and has had a good run as a coach for the Braves since his retirement. 

2013 Bowman Inception David Dahl

I am still working on picking up some more Bowman Inception autographs.  I was happy to open my mail yesterday and find a new autograph from the set I picked up from my brother in-law in Michigan.  We have an on-going exchange of cards happening at the moment, so I was really happy to pick up an autograph of Rockies outfielder David Dahl.  I need to post a list of what cards I still need from the Inception set, but the list of players is getting shorter and shorter.

2012 Bowman Inception David Dahl Autograph 

Dahl was a first round draft pick of the Rockies in 2012 and showed some good promise during a stay at short season Grand Junction in the Pioneer League  where he posted a line of .379/.423/.625 with 9 homers and 41 extra bases in 67 games.  Sounds pretty spectacular until you look into what he did during the 2013 season.  First, there was some sort of suspension after he left Spring Training.  The Rockies publicly questioned whether he belonged in A ball playing for the Asheville Tourists.  He did end up playing for 10 games during the season for the team, but also spent some time "adjusting his attitude" at extended spring training.  At some point in there Dahl tore his hamstring and basically lost an entire season.

Baseball America had ranked Dahl as the Rockies second best prospect entering the 2013 season, but have dropped him to sixth entering the 2014 campaign.  Hopefully the outfielder can turn it around the next season and recapture some of the play he showed during his half season in 2012.  His cards prices are down at the moment and he might be a good player to take a flyer on for the future.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

ACC Baseball on Cardboard

College baseball season is getting close and I am pretty excited to check out some of our local teams around Raleigh-Durham.   I am planning on making it to several games this year and have a list of players I want to see from various colleges making trips in to play one of the three Triangle schools.   Last year both NC State and UNC made the College World Series and this year look just as promising for both teams.  NC State is lead by star pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner.  The Tar Heels will be lead by pitcher Trent Thorton and outfielder Skye Bolt.  The rest of the ACC has some talented players as well and the conference should be pretty deep this year.  

While it's great to live in an area where I have several great college baseball programs nearby, fans all across the county have had more and more access to the best players in college baseball regardless of their location.  The availability of college baseball cards has greatly increased during the past decade mainly through the popularity of the USA Baseball program and its continued popularity amongst baseball card collectors.  Here's my look at four good players in the ACC who are already featured on cardboard:

Carlos Rodon-P
NC State

Rodon projects to be the National Player of the Year, the ACC Player of the Year, and should also be the first overall draft pick in the MLB Amateur Draft this summer.  He's won every individual award there is to win during his two years in Raleigh.  He has also played a few summers over at USA Baseball which means he has several autographs and relics cards floating around already.  Here's a look at an autograph:

Rodon is a pretty hard player to collect.  He has a few cards out on the market, but they are pretty pricey for a baseball player who has not thrown his first professional pitch yet.  The average Rodon card frequently costs more than $50 and the bidding is usually very competitive.  I've been trying to get my hands on one of his new Panini cards, have the money to make a serious offer, but have been outbid, sniped at the last minute on Ebay, and everything else.  You almost have to overpay to land a copy of his cards.

Here's a look at Rodon in action:

Trea Turner-IF
NC State

 Turner currently is projected as the top position player available for this summer's MLB Draft.  Turner had a great freshman year, but had battled the injury bug a bit last year which limited his playing time.  He is incredibly fast and has pretty good patience at the plate.  Like Rodon, he's been around the USA Baseball program for a few years and has several cards out floating about.  They are much cheaper than Rodon's, but I would not say they are cheap.

Turner autographed cards are frequently more than $20.  Not a terrible price, but he still has never played an inning of professional baseball.  I think Turner is a pretty safe bet for Major League teams, so I am not sure where he will go in the first round, but he will be in there somewhere.  I would also guess he is not in the minors a really long time.

Skye Bolt-OF
North Carolina

Bolt is still another year away from the MLB Draft, but should be a pretty high pick coming up in two years.  He's a very patient hitter who posted a great average average, on-base percentage, and walked more than he struck out during his first year in Chapel Hill.  He doesn't have a ton of pop last year, but I am guessing he still develops some good power.  His cards are all from releases put out during the past year.  There are some really cool ones out there, but he's already pretty popular.  I am not sure if people love the name, or they know the potential talent.

I have a base card of Blot, but his autographs are already north of Trea Turner.  Bolt also has some great relic cards that can be found for less than $10. 

Luke Weaver-P
Florida State

Weaver was a second team ACC performer last year in Tallahassee and projects as a top 10 pitching prospect for this summer's MLB entry draft.  I did not get a chance to see Florida State's baseball team last spring, so I cannot speak on Weaver's abilities first hand.  He did pitch for the USA Baseball team this summer, but honestly I made sure that I saw Rodon when I went to their games.  Here's what I know about Weaver: he throws in the mid to low 90s and has a pretty incredible strikeout to walk ratio.  He does have baseball cards.

Weaver's cards are pretty affordable with his autographs sitting below $10 and his relic cards sitting below $5.  Worth a role of the dice given he is likely a first round draft pick. 

Name to remember for later in the summer, they will have baseball cards soon:
Trent Thronton-P University of North Carolina
Landon Lassiter-IF University of North Carolina
D.J. Stewart-OF Florida State
Bryan Radziewski-P Miami
Mark Zagunis-C Virginia Tech
Mike Papi-OF/1BVirginia
Daniel Gossett-RHP Clemson
Brett Austin-C NC State
Brandon Downes-OF Virginia
Derek Fisher-OF Virginia

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Autographs Under The Radar

I spend a lot of time looking for autographed cards and often make it no secret that I prefer cards with on-card signatures versus cards with sticker autographs.  There are still some really cool autographs out there that feature autographs on stickers.  One of my favorite sets of sticker autographs comes from 2007 UD Elements set.  I started out collecting the set in order to pick up two different Cardinals players in the set.

2007 UD Elements Chris Carpenter Auto/Jersey 

My first autograph was Chris Carpenter.  I loved the look of the set with both the autograph and the jersey swatch.  I picked this card up and would later add a second Cardinals with a copy of the Matt Holliday card.

2007 UD Elements Matt Holliday Auto/Jersey

Even though Holliday is a Rockie on the card I decided this card would be a great add to my collection based on how much I liked the looks of the Carpenter card. After adding the Holliday card, my collection of Elements autographs took off.  I picked up a copy of the checklist and was really impressed by the names on the list.  The most expensive card in the autographed set belongs to Derek Jeter, but after that the rest of the players can be found for pretty reasonable prices.  And the other names on the checklist?  Pretty nice group of players.  Here are three of my favorites:

An Inexpensive Player

2007 UD Elements Jake Peavy Auto/Jersey

Every once in awhile I search the term AUTO on Ebay in the Baseball Cards category.  I set my sort feature to ending soonest and get ready to type in some bids.  Sometimes I find a lot of garbage that isn't worth owning, or sometimes I find cards that are ridiculously priced that are not selling for good reason.  Then, every once in awhile you find something going off that's a great deal.  Jake Peavy for $1.25?  Yes, thank you.  I am not saying that Peavy is the best player, but he's a nice player and pretty typical of the base line autographs in the Elements autograph set.

Corey Patterson, Brian Bannister, Joel Zumaya, and Khalil Greene are also cheapies in Elements.  I own all four, but if you are going to own a Corey Patterson autograph then might as well make it count for something.  A complete set of autographs is a good something.  The set gets better.

Current Stars & Players

2007 UD Elements Justin Verlander Auto/Jersey

Verlander might be at the top of the current players within the Elements set along with Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and Matt Holliday.  Cabrera and Verlander are probably the most expensive of the lot, but still can be found, with some patience, for less than $30.  Other current players offer some really good value.  There is a great Francisco Liriano autograph which is a steal given his performance last season for the Pirates.  V-mart and Ryan Zimmerman are also pretty solid autographs.

Hall of Famers

2007 UD Elements Jim Thome Auto/Jersey

Thome is one of my favorite autographs I own in this set.  I always liked watching him play and do not own many cool cards of the slugging first baseman.  This might be the coolest.  There is the aforementioned Jeter, Griffey, and a Cal Ripken too.  These four autographs are four of the more expensive autographs in this set, but are inexpensive cards relative to the prices of other autographs for these future Hall of Famers.  For example, two copies of the Griffey Jr. card have sold for less than $50 on Ebay.  A graded copy of the Ripken card sold for just north of Ripken.  Not too bad for that caliber of autograph.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mr. 5000

One of the coolest baseball accomplishments that has happened during my lifetime was Nolan Ryan's 5000th strikeout.  Ryan reached that plateau during the summer of 1989 and almost 25 years later is still the only player with that many strikeouts.  Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens climbed over 4,000 along with Steve Carlton, but all of them are still over 1,000 behind Nolan Ryan.  All summer long baseball fans kept an eye on Ryan as he inched closer to the magically number of 5000. 

I actually had a chance to attend a Rangers game that summer when my parents attended a conference for work in Fort Worth.  We made the trek over to Arlington and watched a Rangers game.  The old Arlington Stadium was not a very nice place to watch a game.  Metal bleachers in Texas in the summer.  Not so much.  We missed Nolan Ryan's turn in the rotation, but he was still over a month away from passing the 5000 mark.  I still got to see some cool players including Sammy Sosa hitting lead-off...

Nolan Ryan would reach the mark on August 22, 1989 when he struck out Oakland A's Hall of Fame outfielder Rickey Henderson.  Pretty specatular moment and achievement in baseball history.  Here's what it looked like:

Card companies captured the moment on cardboard in 1990.  There were several different cards that were put out to commemorate the achievement.  I featured the 1990 Upper Deck card a few weeks back during my Top 50 On Cardboard countdown, giving that card a slight edge over some of the other cards put out that summer.  That doesn't mean that the others weren't cool.  Here's a quick look at another set of Ryan tribute cards from the summer of 1990. 

1990 Topps Nolan Ryan

Topps had actually made a set of Pete Rose tribute cards in 1986, but thankfully they varied the Nolan Ryan cards.  The Rose cards featured pictures of all the Pete Rose cards in between 1963 and 1986 with a blurb about each year on the back of the card.  The Ryan tribute set in 1990 still spanned his entire career and gave collectors a recap of his career, but the cards were really cool.  

The design of the tribute cards followed the basic design of the 1990 set, but Topps made a Ryan card for every team he had played for during his career.  Ryan also had a basic Rangers card in the set, which was a nice looking card, but the four tribute cards were the best four cards in the 1990 Topps set.  

The backs of the cards did not have a year by year breakdown, but rather just featured Nolan Ryan's highlights with that team.  The Mets card is a little short on highlights, but the other three have a great list of accomplishments that are worth reading through for any baseball fan.  Yes, I am advocating for reading the back of a baseball card.  

One of the best things about this set of Nolan Ryan cards, outside of their cool looks, is the fact that they are easy to find and rather inexpensive.  The whole set of four cards can easily be found on Ebay and will often cost collectors less than $5 to pick up all four cards.  Better yet, check around and see if you can find a box of 1990 Topps.  There is gum in the packs and you can just pull your own copies of the Ryan cards.  Tons of card shops have old Topps boxes from the early 90s and late 80s cheap and they are fun to open.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

I'm Sorry Willie McGee

I promised to do more posts about cards that are already in my collection and I have had this post planned out for about two weeks.  It just took a little bit of time to pull everything together and publish it.  Long time coming.

I spent a lot of time on my blog talking about my favorite baseball cards and players and definitely have a heavy tilt towards the Cardinals, Durham Bulls, and Tampa Rays.  Throw in a bunch of autographs, an occasional Tiger, and a little bit of college baseball and I cover a lot of different players in this space.  The tag bar on the right hand side of the blog is starting to get a little bit out of control.  I will work on it.  In the meantime, I recently had a reader ask me if I had a favorite player I had never made post on.  I thought about it for awhile, read through a whole bunch of posts, and the crazy tag list on the side of the blog and came up with this answer: Willie McGee.

How did I go this long without posting a single card of Cardinals legendary outfielder Willie McGee?  I am not sure, but the best thing to do is apologize and make a post about one of the finest outfielders from the 1980s.

1983 Topps Willie McGee RC

My favorite Willie McGee card is probably his 1983 Topps rookie card.  His Donruss is pretty cool too.  The majority of McGee's good  seasons were spent as a Cardinal, but since he played during the 80s the quantity of McGee cards out on the market is not huge.  He's also one of the more inexpensive Cardinals players you could choose to collect.  I pick up Willie McGee cards here and there, but generally I can find them in the cheapy bins at card shops for a few cents.

Any Cardinals fan who is reading this post could tell you some great story about something they say Willie McGee do, or some accomplishment he achieved during his career.  Basically, if you aren't a Cardinals fan Willie McGee is the best Cardinals player you never paid any attention.  He single-highhandedly won a World Series Game 3 in 1982 for the Cardinals as a rookie.  The box score doesn't mention the fact that he played some good home-run robbing defense in this game too, but yeah...

Willie McGee also won a National League MVP award in 1985 and a pair of batting titles in 1985 and again in 1990.  The 1990 batting title might be the best remembered of all McGee achievement because of the fact that he won the National League Batting Title, but spent the last month of the season playing for the Oakland A's.  After a half-season in Oakland, Willie would spend a few years playing for his hometown San Francisco Giants, a year for the Red Sox, but finished his career back in St. Louis.  He was mainly used an extra outfielder for a few years, but it was still a big deal when he called it a career in 1997.

The lone challenge in collecting Willie McGee cards has always been finding autographs and relics of the former Cardinal.  He has signed very few certified autographs since his career ended and the well has run dry on the supply of these cards.  He does have a Topps Fan Favorite, which uses the 1990 Topps design, and can be found every great once in awhile at a pretty steep price for a player like McGee.  He also has a Fleer Greats of the Game which can also pop up here and there and is a little bit cheaper in the neighborhood of $25 to $30.  Panini and Leaf have also recently had McGee cards, but they look expensive given what they are.  I only own a copy of the Fleer.  

2005 Fleer Greats of the Game Willie McGee Autograph

Relics cards for McGee are just as limited as autographs.  He has two relics: one is from a Topps Fan Favorites set and one from a Bazooka set.  The relics cards are not nesacarily expensive, but they are just hard to find at times. 

2003 Topps Bazooka Willie McGee Bat 

This is just a quick glance at one of my Cardinals favorites from the 1980s.  If you are a Giants fan there are plenty more cool McGee cards from the early to mid 90s in a Giants uni.  I even think one of the new Leaf autographs of McGee features him in a Giants uniform.  I'd also encourage you to check out the infamous Ryan Sandberg/Willie McGee hitting duel when you have an extra twenty minutes.  For those with less time I leave you with this classic commercial featuring Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee dressed up as old men at a bar. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Top 50 On Cardboard- #1 Ken Griffey Jr.

Top 50 On Cardboard
Ken Griffey Jr.

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. 

Hobby Impact-
The most iconic rookie card in my collection belongs to future Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.  I am sure that there are plenty of other collectors who could probably say the same thing about the best rookie card in their collection too.  While I am sure I have a few rookie cards that might bring in more money on the secondary market, no other rookie card has more meaning to me and to the hobby then the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. card.  

The popularity of the 1989 Upper Deck set was driven by the rookie card of Ken Griffey Jr.  Before Upper Deck baseball cards were low gloss cardboard.  Imperfect in many ways.  Nothing wrong that at all, but Upper Deck introduced the baseball card world to a glossier sharper looking card.  Without the Griffey rookie card would collectors have been had the same love for the 1989 Upper Deck set?  I am guessing no.  

Is there anyone who collected baseball cards in the nineties who does not have at least a little bit of love for Ken Griffey Jr?  There have been many good players who have come and gone during my time collecting cards, but Ken Griffey's career interested 22 of those years.  No matter the quality of season for Ken Griffey Jr., he was always at the top of hobby.  I first ran into Ken Griffey Jr. in middle school.  I loved his cards then and tried to pick up as many as I could.  

Over the years I picked up whatever Griffey cards came my way.  Is there really a bad Ken Griffey card?  I would argue no.  It really does not matter if the card is low end, high end, or in between.  Give me a piece of cardboard with a picture of Ken Griffey Jr. on it and you've made my day.  There are so many cool ones.  Like this one:

1998 Collectors Choice Ken Griffey Jr. 

A low end card, but such a cool picture.  It's one of the things that always made Ken Griffey Jr. a cool player to collect.  No matter your budget or level of collecting you could always find something that would look great in your collection. 

Over time my taste in Griffey cards took a turn upwards.  Upper Deck signed Ken Griffey Jr. to an exclusive autograph and relic card contract and put out a ton of his signatures and jersey swatches.  The cards were really expensive in the late nineties, but have come down in price over the past decade and a half.  Who wouldn't want to own a copy of Griffey autograph?

Besides being an iconic player of the game, Griffey has a great signature.  His autograph has changed very little over the years.  There are a few "low end" Griffey autographs which can be had for around $50 on Ebay.  If you want to own a Griffey autograph for the sake of owning a Griffey autograph, you should look into the 2004 UD Etchings set.  I believe the print run on the Griffey autograph in that set is around 1500.  It's the largest autograph run I have ever seen on a Griffey autograph and it's often reflected on the price of the card.

If price is not an object, and your looking for quality, I would look at Upper Deck autographs between 2000 and 2005.  There are plenty of them, with varying print runs, but many are on-card autographs and look sharp.  The newer Topps autographs of Griffey Jr. are also very nice.  Later 2000s Upper Decks are hit and miss.  There are some nice ones, but there are also autographed cards of Griffey on the White Sox (Why Upper Deck?)

In summary, Griffey is just a great player to collect.  He's had the greatest impact on baseball cards over the last thirty years and it's not even close.  Collectors have argued with me over the years about whatever flavor of the year had popped up, but year in and year out, Griffey was always amongst the most collected players in the game.

On The Field-
Griffey is one of the best center-fielders of all-time.  JAWS ranks him as the fifth best of all-time.  The top four center-fielders are Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Mickey Mantle.  There is a pretty big gap in WAR between the four center fielders and the rest of the group, but Griffey still ranks ahead of Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, and Andre Dawson.  Really I think of Griffey's career in two segments.

The first segment of Griffey's career was played at a really high level.  The first decade of Junior's career was played in Seattle where he won an American League MVP, four home run titles, ten Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and 10 All-Star appearances.  Add in an OPS that was consistently between .900 and 1.000, an OPS+ between 130 and 170, and a WAR that consistently crossed 5.  When you compare those numbers to the top 4 players on the JAWS center-fielder list, it's clear that Griffey fits the mold as one of the greats of the all-time.

The second half of Griffey's career was spent mostly in Cincinnati.  Griffey forced a trade to the Reds before the 2000 season.  While there were signs of Griffey's decline during his last two years in Seattle, injuries sped the process up in Cincinnati.  He was a good player, not great, when he was healthy.  However, he missed a lot of playing time during his nine years as a Red.  He basically played two full season as a Red.  You can count a third season if you include 2008 which was split between the Reds and White Sox.

While Griffey continued to increase his counting number stats like home runs, RBIS, and hits his other stats suffered greatly.  He posted one season over 40 home runs (2000) and won none of the accolades he received while playing in Seattle.   He did make a few All-Star game appearances, but failed to garner any other Silver Sluggers, Gold Gloves, or MVPs.  In fact, during his time in Cincinnati he only finished in the Top 25 for MVP voting once.

His OPS+ in Cincinnati was consistenly under 130, one season over, and his WAR never crossed 4.  Still, despite the decline I still enjoyed watching Ken Griffey as a Red.  It was painful to watch the decline, but if you were patient you'd see a flash of what made Ken Griffey Jr. one of the all-time greats.

One of my best memories of Griffey was from a game he played against the Cardinals in 2001.  I remember watching the game during my summer break from school.  The Cardinals were in the middle of the pennant chase against the Astros and were playing the lowly Reds.  The game entered the 11th inning and Tony LaRussa brought in Andy Benes to pitch.  Griffey came up and hit a ball to dead center field.  Those days patrolled by Jim Edmonds which usually meant a fly ball was either out of the park, or it was going to be caught.  Not that night.  I actually found a video of the play.  Vintage Griffey.

It's got to be one of his best moments as a Red.  It would have been cool to see Griffey stay a little bit more upright as a Red and see where his career numbers might have ended.  If if Griffey was just an above average player in Cincinnati, he could have easily reached 3000 hits and 700 home runs with more than 2 healthy season over his nine as a Red. 

Favorite Card-
There are so many that I could choose.  I will go with the 2000 Pacific Aurora Griffey card.  There are two versions of the card: The original Mariners card and a Reds card.  It's an inexpensive card, but was a really cool card at the time it was released.  You also can't go wrong with a Griffey rookie, the Collector's Choice card above, or any Griffey autograph.