Monday, April 27, 2015

Pink Oscar

I ended up with a completely ridiculous Oscar Taveras card this past week.  I picked this card up from a local collector in Raleigh.  I have several other copies of this card, but did not have the pink copy of this card.  In fact, I do not think I have a copy of a pink Inception card.  The pink parallels only appeared in the 2014 version of Inception (the product started in 2013) and are all limited to just 50 copies.   I spent a little bit of time looking around Ebay and COMC at the pink parallels after buying this card.  Seems like there are some possibilities out there that would look nice in my collection.  There are not a lot of Cardinals and Rays in this set, so I will have to surprise a little bit with the next version of this pink parallel that I pick up.  Like most Bowman products Taveras is wearing a Minor League uni in his picture which reminds all Cardinals fans of that time that the team broadcast referred to Oscar as Minor League Guy.  


I am not have the smoothest of Mondays, so #MyCardMonday is making it onto my blog a little bit late this week.  I didn't spend much time this weekend on cards, but did take about ten minutes out of my school work on Sunday to put away a few autographed Cardinals cards I had picked up over the past week.  Don't worry I scanned them and will share them this week. 

While I was in my box of Cardinals autographs I stumbled upon my 1996 Leaf Signatures Cardinals autographs.  There were a bunch of good Cardinals players in that set.  Guys like Tom Pagnozzi, John Mabry, and Brian Jordan.  There were also a few veteran players in the Cardinals team set that you probably wouldn't associate with the team, but had ended up on the Cardinals during Tony LaRussa's first year as the manager.  There was a Mike Gallego autograph, I think of him as an A's player, and Rick Honeycutt, Dodgers.  There was also Gary Gaetti who is always a Twin in my book, but was the Cardinals third baseman in 1996, 1997, and part of 1998.  

Gaetti is actually from a small town in Illinois, Centralia, that's not far from St Louis.  The veteran third baseman had two pretty good years for the Cardinals before he was released by the team in 1998.  When I moved to North Carolina I ran into Gaetti again as the first base coach for the Durham Bulls.  I decided to add a Gaetti autograph to the collection. At the time this was his only certified autograph, but he's signed for several of the Topps Archives/Fan Favorites sets during the past decade. 

 He also happens to be one of the few players who has appeared for both my favorite Minor League team, the Durham Bulls, and my favorite Major League team, the Cardinals.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Jimmy Ballgame On Deck

I have really cut back on the relic cards this year.  The whole concept around relics has become really stale and I am just not too excited about landing them anymore.  Patch pieces can still be nice, but there is something about pulling a plain white or grey piece of slabbed jersey that just disappoints.  I have been using some of my relic cards as trade bait, selling a few here and there too.

As far as adding new relic cards, again I am looking for things that are unique.  The past week I found a really cool and unique relic piece for my collection:

I know this is one of those communal relics that's not specifically tied to a player.  A lot of collectors skip over the base and ball type of relics for this very reason.  While I completely understand the draw back with this sort of relic piece I had two reasons for picking up this piece:

  • I have several other pieces from this set and love the look of the cards.  If you do not own any of the All-Star relics from the 2004 Topps set I think they are worth checking out.  The relic cards are somewhat limited in nature, all serial numbered to something less than 100, and have a pretty cool design.  I like these better than most of the All-Star relics that have been in the Topps Traded/Update set the past few years.   The set also features some really autographed relic cards.  Yes, they are sticker autographs.  Yes, the stickers are big and do not really blend in with the cards.  Strangely the print runs on the autographed relics is much greater than just the plain relics.  I still really like the looks of these cards.  

  • Topps keeps repeating the same Cardinals autographs and relics over and over.  Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Kolten Wong....I like Kolten Wong.  Matt Adams, meh.  Don't get me wrong, I want a Matt Adams autograph or two, but he is not one of my favorite Cardinals.  I am certainly not going out of my to collect his cards.  While Topps is boring me with their player selection on the Cardinals front, I am going to go back and collect some older Cardinals who may not be on the team anymore, or who may be retired now.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Five: My Top 5 St. Louis Blues Players

There is a first time for everything and this is going to be my first ever hockey post.  Seems so out of place, but I am a bit of a closet hockey fan.  Growing up in the St. Louis area the Blues were always pretty good, but just could never quite get over the hump to win the Stanley Cup.  I have been to some Hurricanes games over the past decade since moving to Raleigh, but I am not sure that I have really hooked onto cheer for the team.  As a Blues fan I should probably be slightly irked that the Canes have a banner and the Blues don't.  Maybe this is finally the year.  Here are my top 5 Blues, no Gretzky.

Honorable Mention: David Backes, Brendan Shanahan, Pronger, Curtis Joseph, Mike Liut, Pierre Turgeon

5. Pavol Demitra (1996-2004) Demitra may not be a huge name for the Blues, but he was a really productive offensive player.  In eight seasons as a Blue the Slovakian winger scored 204 goals and recorded 493 points in 494 games.  His best season was spent as a Blue during the 2002-2003 season when he scored 36 goals with 57 assists for 93 points.  Demitra also won the Lady Bing Trophy during the 1999-2000 season.  Demitra also spent time with the Kings, Wild, and Vancouver before returning to Europe to play in the KHL.  Pavel died in a plane crash in Russia in 2011.  

4. Keith Tkachuk (1999-2010) The Blues traded for Tkachuk in 1999 as the final piece to a really good team.  Tkachuk never found the touch that helped him net 50 goals for the Jets/Coyotes in the 1990s, but he still had several good seasons for the Blues.  In 543 games as a Blue he scored 208 goals with 427 points.  Tkachuk never got the Blues to the Stanley Cup, or really all that close, but he was probably their best offensive weapon in the early 2000s.  A big forward, Tkachuk scored a lot of goals around the net and was a really physical player.  He should be a Hall of Famer at some point.  

3.  Al MacInnis (1994-2004) MacInnis spent ten years with the Blues and was known for his huge slap shot.  He was really a good overall defenseman, but the crazy hard shot is what got him the most attention.  The Blues picked up MacInnis in the middle of the Mike Keenan era, the Blues made a trade a week during those years, as a proven winner with the Flames.  For what it is worth, one of the closest the Blues came to getting to a Stanley Cup was ended by MacInnis in the 1986 playoffs.  Al ended his Blues career with 127 goals and a plus/minus of 132.  Another Hall of Famer.  

2. Bernie Federko (1977-1989) Federko is the career stats leader in points and assists mainly because Brett Hull did not play his whole career in St. Louis.  When I first moved to St. Louis as a kid Federko was the star player for the Blues.  The center had four 100 point seasons and three 90 point seasons.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.  

1.  Brett Hull (1987-1998) Hull scored 527 goals during his career as a Blue.  He crossed 50 goals every year between 1989 and 1994 leading the league three times with goal totals of 72, 86, and 70.  He had three other seasons where he scored at least 40 goals.  Hull was an entertaining player to watch and was bummed to see him go on to other teams, but he did end up winning a Stanley Cup with the Stars and the Red Wings.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Sets From 1993

This week features my five favorite sets from 1993.  I had a few readers who strongly advocated for me ranking the sets, so a little bit of editing and here we are........

5.  1993 Pacific- I can think of several card companies whose best set might have been their first set.  The 1951 Topps and 1989 Upper Deck come to mind.  The 1993 Pacific set?  Not, so much.  However, everyone has to start somewhere and for Pacific their start, outside of some odds and ends with tribute sets, came when they were awarded a license to produce cards in Spanish.  I remember stumbling across odd packs of Pacific cards at different points in the mid 90s and usually somehow felt really let down.  In the end Pacific turned out to be one of my favorite card brands before they disappeared from the baseball card scene in 2001.  One of the few things Pacific left for me to collect are these early sets.  The cards are inexpensive to buy in boxes and packs and have found a happy home in my collection more than twenty years after they were released.  While companies like Topps and Upper Deck hit home runs in their first go around, I like to think that Pacific got better with age and left the card business in their prime.

4. 1993 Stadium Club Murphy- The Stadium Club Murphy set was essentially the same thing as the Stadium Club Dome set which was issued in 1992.  The key card in this set is the Derek Jeter rookie card.  Some of the die hard Jeter collectors that I have run across over the years have told me that this is the Jeter rookie card to own.  Assuming you are going to own just one.  Otherwise buy a few more, especially the one that I put further down the page.  The rest of the Stadium Club Murphy is fairly enjoyable with some nice cards of some big players from the early 1990s along with more cool looking rookie cards.  Nothing as cool as that Cliff Floyd card in the Stadium Club Dome set though.

3. 1993 Upper Deck- If you really like looking at base sets this could possibly be one of the best sets ever.  I actually skipped collecting this set back in 1993, but I found a bunch of boxes cheap my freshman year of college and ended up putting together this entire set.  The inserts are really cool too, but it's a really large set at 840 cards, but has great photography and a really simple design which works for me.  The best single card in this set is the Jeter rookie, which is a nice card, but this is just a fun set to take out of the box and flip thru on a slow day.

2.  1993 SP- First we had baseball cards, then we had premium baseball cards, and finally we got super premium baseball cards.  1993 was the first year with super premium baseball cards and two sets really stole the show and the attention of collectors for a year.  While there are now dozens of sets out every year like the 1993 SP product, this set was truly special when it was first released.  The set was 290 cards with a handful of rookie cards at the end of the set which gave us the best, in my opinion, Jeter rookie card.  The SP cards are brighter and shinier than the other baseball products in 1993, but the edges of these cards can get a little bit chippy.  If you have some nice copies you can't go wrong having them graded, which I normally do not do.  In this case, yes I do....

1.  1993 Finest- SP was a nice set, but this was the best of the super premium products issued in 1993.  It's not too hard to make an argument that this is still one of the best super premium sets twenty years later.  The cards, especially the hard to find refractors, are still highly desirable and sell for lofty prices frequently.  Even the refractor versions of the common cards sell well and sell at a premium.  Simply put, this set is a modern classic.  If you do not own any cards out of this set you should go out and find something cool out it.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2014 International League Top Prospects

I went to a Durham Bulls game last week and was happy to see that the team was selling off some of their old baseball cards cheap.  I could not pass that buy, so I loaded up on a few things from their team store.  Really, I love looking at minor league sets and probably need to post a few of these sets on here.  There is always some star power in these sets, but there are some fun players too.  Here's a look at last season's International League Top Prospects set.....

First couple of cards and there are a few favorites in here:

 Jesus Aguilar because he was in the Triple A All-Star game last year and seemed pretty impressive.  He also recently pulled off the hidden ball trick against the Indianapolis Indians.

Christian Bethancourt because nobody should run on him, ever.  

Hak Ju Lee because if he ever learned to hit consistently he would be awesome.  Until then his slugging percentage is .250.  (Sigh)

Kevin Kiermaier because this is fun to watch.  The Cardinals win this game?  

Steven Souza because the guy can hit......

Marcus Stroman because he is one my favorite ACC baseball players I have seen in person

Allen Webster and Mike Wright?  I have got nothing here.  I listened to this great Pixies show while I was typing this post.  Give it a listen. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Museum Archer Autograph

I found a really Chris Archer card a few days back on Ebay that seemed worthy of an add to the old collection.  The Rays cards have been pretty limited in the early going of the 2015 card calendar, so adding new autographs and relics has been a rather difficult task over the past two or three months.  However, I really liked this Archer autograph in spite of the fact that it is a sticker autograph.  The two patch pieces on the side are not huge, but both are multi-color.  I really like the light blue patch piece on the bottom.  I am not sure I have many light blue jersey pieces from the Rays.  Cool story, back to school work....


What's the big news in baseball today?  Long time Snorting Bull favorite Carlos Rodon is getting called up to the White Sox.  While I am sure that it will probably have a little less fanfare than the Bryant promotion, in my opinion Rodon is going to be a fantastic player for a long time.  The former NC State player was taken by the White Sox third overall in last summer's amateur draft in June.  He has quickly moved through their system and looks like he is going to start out his Major League career in their bullpen.  We'll see how long that lasts.....

Which brings us to #MyCardMonday

There are a bunch of different Rodon autographs out floating around, but my favorite autograph of the left handed pitcher is probably the first one I picked up of him a few years back.  This card is out of the Playoff Prime Cuts set and features Rodon in his USA Baseball uniform.  He actually has several different autographs and relic cards in this set, but this is my easily my favorite card.  The price of the Rodon cards has fluctuated over the past three years, but there are plenty of Rodon autographs floating around out there.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Durham Bulls Opening Night

I made a pair of posts from the Durham Bulls Opening Night on Wednesday and wanted to take a little bit of time to give a run down and a few final thoughts on the evening and the upcoming season for my local rooting interest.  I love going to Bulls games and it was rough having the team start their season out of town while I had two and half weeks off of school for my spring intercession.  I had a few parent conferences during the afternoon Thursday, but was excited to go to Durham and check out the 2015 version of the Bulls along with all the fixings of the Durham Athletic Park.

Let's start out with a three cool things I saw around the stadium......

Around The Stadium 

1.  Craft Beer- There is a double staircase that leads from the front gate of the stadium up to the seating areas of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  For years the space in between the two staircases was a club area for season ticket holders.  It was also briefly a second team store.  This year the space is home to the Bull Durham Beer Company which is the Durham Bulls entry into the craft beer world.  You can walk through the space and check out the different beers that they are brewing.  When it gets a little bit warmer outside I will have a glass and let you know how it tastes.  North Carolina has a great craft beer scene, so I am guessing that this is going to be something good.  I know a few people that are really excited about this addition to the park.

2.  New Food- The Bulls are doing their own catering this year and also have a few new food vendors in the stadium.  It was a cold rainy night so I tried a bratwurst which was different from the normal ballpark brat.  It had some southwest flavoring and a little bit of kick.  Nothing obnoxious, but again not the norm.  I am also excited about the addition of Rise Donuts in the ballpark.  Rise is a local restaurant in Durham that makes a good donut, great biscuit, and loads of other good food.  If you are a local and are ever near Southpoint Mall in Durham it's worth your time.

3.  Baseball cards.  The older team sets are only $4.50 in the team store.  I bought a set of the International League Prospects from last year.  That's another post, but if you are missing any of the old sets now would be a good time to fill in some of the holes.

The Team 

We are two weeks into the baseball season and the Bulls have had several different players called up to the Rays already.  Allan Dykstra, Mikie Mahtook, C.J. Riefenhauser among others have already made a trip or two in between Tampa and Durham.  I still like the players that are on the team and think things will settle down as players like James Loney, Alex Colome, and Alex Cobb return from injury.  I think my favorite player at the moment might be Joey Butler......

The right handed hitting veteran has spent time with the Rangers and Cardinals and I had heard good things about his bat before the season.  He seems to have some pop and I think he is going to be fun to watch this summer.  Although Mahtook got sent back down yesterday, but he did manage to hit his first Major League home run Thursday night while I was at the game.....

If you are planning on attending a Bulls game I would also recommend checking out Hak Ju Lee on defense and also Taylor Motter.  I am not sure what kind of player Motter is going to be quite yet, but he showed some good pop last year in Double A Montgomery and definitely has that grit factor.  

The Game 

Like I mentioned earlier it was a rainy night in Durham.   When I arrived at the Durham Athletic Park the field was covered and it was pretty clear that the game was not going to start at the announced start time of 6:10.  The delay gave me two hours to check out the new additions to the stadium, the food, and also gave me a chance to catch up with a couple of friends who were also at the game.  

The grounds crew did a great job with the field, and after some consulting with new manager Jared Sandberg, the tarp was pulled and the preparation for the game got started......


The game ended up not being too close as Everett Teaford was not really fooling many of the batters on Norfolk who made solid contact against the left handed pitcher with some frequency at the beginning of the game.  The big hit in the first frame was a Chris Parmelee home run to right field that was just crushed.  

Teaford ended up giving up 6 earned runs in his 4 innings of work, but the Bulls difficulties were compounded by the fact that their bats were silent against Norfolk hurler Mike Wright.  In all the Bulls managed just four hits.  

In spite of the loss of the Bulls loss, and the two hour rain delay, it was great to get back to the ballpark to see the Bulls.  I always feel like Opening Night is like a holiday and in my book is right up there with opening Christmas presents and having a piece of turkey on Thanksgiving.  I am glad to have my summer friend back.  Let's hope it is a good year for the Bulls.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Sets From 1992

I am way behind on blogging this week, so I am getting around to my Friday Five post for this week a little bit later than I really wanted.  Better late than never.  This week I am looking at my favorite five baseball card sets from 1992.  There are some good ones here, so if you have not dabbled in these card sets they are all easy to find and pretty affordable.  

In no particular order, here are the 1992 sets......

1992 Fleer Ultra- I put the Ultra Update set on my Friday Five last week and stated that it was intended to be the Fleer answer to Upper Deck and Stadium Club.  I am not really sure that most collectors considered the 1991 set a "premium" product, but the 1992 set definitely had the feel and look of those two established products.  While the rookie cards are not that great, think Rod Beck, there are some other really cool cards in this set to chase down outside of picking up a copy of the base set.  Fleer also put in an insert set of Tony Gwynn cards, Award Winners, Ultra All-Stars, and All-Rookies.  Note Cardinals fans: The All-Rookies set includes Donovan Osborne.  

The other highlight of this set is the 2000 Tony Gwynn autographs that were inserted into packs.  The cards are not obviously too hard to find, due to the number of cards signed, but the cards can be quite pricy.  There are ten different versions of the autograph (they used the Tony Gwynn insert set cards), but I am not sure if there is a premium on any of the versions....

1992 Topps- The 1992 Topps set was kind of the end of an era for Topps.  First, the cards were printed on white cardstock.  The cards had cleaner edges and corners, but something seems a little bit off with these cards when compared to the Topps sets from the 1980s and early 1990s.  The 1992 set was also the last Topps made with a single series.  Topps also introduced the Topps Gold card in the 1992 season.  

1992 Pinnacle- Every card company made the leap into "premium" cardboard at some point in the early 1990s.  The Pinnacle brand was Score's feature into that card market.  If I had to rank these sets this week this could easily end up near the top of the list.  The set has rookie cards of Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, and Snorting Bull favorite Brian Jordan.  Pinnacle also had even more anti-fraud gizmos than Upper Deck.  Bar codes on the card could be unscrambled to spell out Pinnacle...I am not sure why someone would want to counterfeit these cards......Seriously, the black edges of the cards make finding nice copies of these cards really difficult.  The high grades on these cards have a low population, so nice raw copies can sell well depending on the card.  See Manny Ramirez.

1992 Bowman- Rivera, Manny, Piazza, Trevor Hoffman, and Carlos Delgado all have rookie cards in this product.  What do most people think of when they hear the brand name of Bowman?  Rookie Cards.  While the 1992 Topps set started moving the flagship brand away from their traditional base set, the Bowman cards were coming into their own.  Over time the size and design of the Bowman set has changed, but this was the first year that the product really focused in on young players.  On top of having the set focus on young players, which worked well in 1991, the 1992 set was printed on the same card stock as the Stadium Club set and also featured the popular foil short prints.  If you had to own one 1992 set it should be this one.  However, this set is the one product on this list that is not necessarily a cheap buy.  

1992 Stadium Club Dome- This set is worth buying just for all of the cool pictures of Major League Baseball players wearing high school uniforms or paisley shorts.  All sorts of good early 90s fashion statements in here.  Originally packaged as a 1991 product, the set is generally recognized as a 1992 product by collectors.  Probably because the set was released in March of 1992 after the 1992 Stadium Club set had been released.  This product was sold as a set and packaged in a thin plastic model of the SkyDome.  This set is really inexpensive and totally worth it.  See Manny Ramirez in front of Duke Chapel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bulls Opening Day- Rain Delay

After a two and a half hour break we are getting ready to play.  Had fun talking to a couple of friends and eating some dinner.  

I had a chance to go check out the Bull Durham Brewery during the break.  I am not sure how many teams make their own craft beer setup in the stadium, but this is cool.  

I got to check out part of the Rays games while I was waiting.  The grounds crew is working on the field and the game is going to start in about ten minutes. 

Go Bulls!

Durham Bulls Opening Day

The Durham Bulls return home to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park after starting their 2015 season with six games on the road.  So far the Bulls are 3-3 on the new season under brand new manager Jared Sandberg.  Considering they have already had a few roster moves made this season, Mikie Mahtook and Allan Dykstra have been called up to Tampa, I am really happy with the early results.  

Tonight's Home Opener at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park should be fun.  The Bulls have made some great changes around the stadium off the field, along with some new players on the field, and I will share a few of the changes when I get to the stadium in a few hours.   The lineup is set, the tickets are printed, should be a fun summer.  Go Bulls!

The Bulls 2015 Opening Day lineup features four players who appeared for the Bulls prior to this season.  Vince Belnome returns for his third season in the Durham lineup and has been a fixture in the early going in the second spot in the lineup.  Curt Casali and Luke Maile, two catchers, also return.  Sandberg has been doing well at getting both players at bats and chances to catch as well.  Tonight Casali starts at catcher and Maile gets the nod at DH a night after hitting his first Triple A home run.  Ha Ju Lee also returns to the Bulls lineup.  The slick fielding short stop is hoping to find his touch at the plate.  He's had a slow start, but had a pair of hits against Charlotte last night.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Marp Triple Threads

It's been a slow start to the 2015 card year, but I will have some Gypsy Queen to post later this week. I am hoping that it's as cool as it was last year.  In the meantime, I went ahead and found a card from last year's Triple Threads to fill in a hole in my collection.  Here's a look at the new card....

I found this card in a Cardinals trade room on Facebook and was happy to take it off of another collectors hands.  I picked up a few Matt Carpenter cards last summer, but missed out on one of these cards.  Carpenter is one of my favorite Cardinals players at the moment.

Monday, April 13, 2015


While baseball has started up this week my two favorite teams, the Cardinals and Durham Bulls, are actually celebrating their Opening Day games this week.  Living 13 hours from St. Louis makes attending a Cardinals game a little bit tricky, but I am definitely going to the Bulls game Wednesday night.  Which got me thinking about my favorite Opening Day moment involving the Bulls.

There is a clear winner involving B.J. Upton.  Umm...Melvin.  Which makes this cool card this week's #MyCardMonday

The Opening Day involving Upton took place in 2006.  The Bulls were taking on the Toledo Mud Hens and were losing 4-1 in the 9th inning.  The team loaded the bases for B.J. and the rest is history.  I found the video clip on the Bulls MySpace page.  It still exists.  Sorry it's grainy.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Secret Weapon Bobblehead

I have a few things that I am going to work on catching up on with blogging this week.  There are times when things come in the mail and I just do not get around to scanning, or taking pictures, of the item.  A few weeks, or in this case, months later I remember that I have not put an item up on my blog.  I have had the last two weeks off of school and spent a little bit of time working on putting a new shelf up in my baseball card room.  I keep autographed balls and bobbleheads on my shelves.  This set of shelves was more a necessity than plans for future purchases.  After sanding and painting I hung the shelf up and started taking the bobbles out of the boxes.  First up was this one.....

The Cardinals gave away this bobble last September.  Oquendo currently works as the Cardinals third base coach where he has worked since 1999.   Jose also spent the vast majority of his playing career with the Cardinals and was dubbed "The Secret Weapon".  Basically he was always in the line up, but 1980s Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog played him all over the place.  Hence the shin guards on the bobble.

This is a pretty easy bobble to find on Ebay and not very expensive either.  There are dozens of them for sale for around $20, but if you are patient it's not hard to win the bidding on one for less.  I like looks of this bobble and love that they put the catchers stuff on him....

The back base of the bobble has the "Secret Weapon" nickname in black, kind of hard to see, and pictures Jose in his trademark number 11 jersey.  Here's a look at the sides of the Jose Oquendo bobble...

Overall this is a really cool bobblehead to add to the collection.  While Oquendo was not the best player on the 1980s/1990s Cardinals teams he was a unique talent and had some great moments wearing the birds on the bat.  Probably my favorite of all, when it comes to Jose, is his Game 7 three run home run against the Giants in the 1987 National League Championship Series which put the Cardinals in the World Series against the Twins.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Scott Diamond

The Rays signed Scott Diamond to a contract just last week and sent him down to Durham.  Bulls fans might have seen Diamond previously with the Rochester Red Wings, Louisville Bats, or the Gwinnett Braves.  Diamond originally made it up to the Majors when the Twins made him a Rule 5 Draft Pick back in 2010.  After spending time with Rochester Diamond got 7 starts with the Twins in 2011.  He went 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA.  Not too great, but he bounced back strong in 2012.  He started 27 games that season and posted a 12-9 record with a 3.54 ERA.  His ERA+ was 116 and his walks per nine led the American League.

2013 was a step back for Diamond at 6-13 with a 5.43 ERA, 21 home runs allowed in 131 innings, and an ERA+ of 75.  He did end up back in the International League that year and had a fine 4-0 record with a 2.93 ERA.  Still the Twins ended up releasing the left handed starter who was then signed by the Reds making 2014 a split season between the Louisville Bats and Rochester.  Diamond went a combined 5-12 with a 6.57 ERA.  Not a great season.

The Rays are hoping that Diamond can regain his 2012 form with the Bulls.  Given the injuries that have struck the Rays pitching staff early this season, and some of the struggles that some of the young pitchers on the team have had, it wouldn't be surprising to see Diamond get a spot start for the Rays at some point in the year.

Cardwise Diamond has a lot of cardboard.  His rookie cards were in 2012 releases and can be found in Topps Update and Panini Prism.  The Panini card has an autographed variation to go along with all of the normal colors and different number parallels that can be found in that same.  Same for his rookie Topps Update card minus the autographed parallel.  Almost all of Diamond's rookie cards, including the Panini autograph, can be found for less than $5 shipped.

2013 is the prime year for Scott Diamond cards.  Diamond basically had an autograph in almost every major Topps product that year.  He was in the base Topps set, Gypsy Queen, Heritage, Tribute, Tier One, Turkey Red, and Allen & Ginter.  I picked up a Diamond autograph on the cheap awhile back, but the price has not really changed over the past few years.  Almost all of his signatures, brand does not matter, are all under $5.  You might have to pay some shipping that would bump some of those cards over $5, but still.....

I like the idea of having players like Diamond around.  He's got Major League experience and has won big in some of his previous Minor League stops.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Friday 5: Best 5 Sets from 1991

I love the 1991 baseball card sets and I had a hard time sitting on this post all week.  If you were not collecting that year and are looking for something fun and inexpensive to open any of these sets would be a great deal of fun to assemble.  Before I show off my Top 5 I am going to have to put up an Honorable Mention for this week for one of my most underrated sets of all time.  It's already had a post or two....

Honorable Mention- I have always loved the 1991 Bowman set.  I will go ahead and admit that I am slightly biased towards it, but it is a well deserved love.  The set has a lot of important rookie cards in it that are of no particular value, but they are a lot of fun to take out of the box and flip through.  Of course there is Jeromy Burnitz and his incredible follow through along with Jim Thome, Chipper, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, and Ivan Rodriguez.  Those guys are going to be prominent through out this post.

#5- Upper Deck Final Edition- This is a really tiny set that you can probably find for $1.00 on Ebay.  Sure there will be shipping, but they are seriously ridiculously cheap.  How many copies of this set did Upper Deck print?  I am going to guess many many thousands.  Anyway, it's Upper Deck's first stab at an "Update" set and it's not too good except two cards.  First, there is a Jim Thome rookie card in the set.  They also put in a Pedro Martinez rookie card.  Classic also had a Pedro rookie card in 1991, but the vast majority of the Pedro rookie cards appear in 1992 products.  Having a rookie card of one of the best pitchers from the era is a definite plus and makes this set worth owning.

#4- Fleer Ultra Update- The Ultra Update set is a lot like the Upper Deck Final Edition set, but with one huge difference.  It is actually a 1991 product with a somewhat limited print run.  Fleer distributed this product in set form and made it a Hobby only product.  I think it was a pretty crazy idea at the time, but it has seriously made this set more difficult to collect then others of this era.  While there are good rookie cards in the set of Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Bagwell there are also some other cards which have good value and collectability like the Juan Gonzalez card.  Second year card, but it's hot.  Why?  Not sure.

#3- Studio- This was a really unique set at the time of it's release.  While there were a lot of products that were trying to go high end with foil packaging and different card stocks Studio changed some of the basics of baseball cards.  Studio did that, but there were other changes too.  First, the pictures are black and white head shots.  Is there another set like this?  No.  Really unique.  Flip the card over and there are no stats.  Mark McGwire likes Whitney Houston.  Consider me shocked and disappointed at the same time.  Not the most expensive set, but a really fun product to open from packs.  Or just buy the set and enjoy the pictures.  Either way you're going to be happy.

#2- Topps- Always been a really underrated Topps set in my opinion.  There are not any really great cards in this set, nor Earth shattering design, but there is some really good photography here.  There are a lot of action shots and the staged shots are done really creatively.  Always loved that Benito Santiago card.  This is also the last Topps set before Topps started using thinner card stocks with progressively more and more gloss.  Kind of an end of era set and one that is fun to flip through and look at.  If you don't own this set it is cheap and fun to put together as boxes often sell for less than $10 on Ebay.

1991 Stadium Club- The Topps answer to Upper Deck and quite well done.  The photography was cool, the packs were foil, and the cards were glossy.  These cards also cost a dollar per pack pack in 1991, so they also match Upper Deck's SRP.  Lots of great cards in this set, so I went with the cool Nolan Ryan tuxedo card.  After it's 1991 debut Stadium Club was a staple of the Topps product line for more than a decade.  As a collector during the 1990s is was nearly impossible to not dabble in Stadium Club every year.  Like all of the rest of the products on this week's list you can find packs and boxes of Stadium Club for next to nothing on Ebay.  Fun boxes to open.

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Curt Casali

Casali is back with the Bulls to start off the 2015 season after losing out to Bobby Wilson for the Rays backup catching gig.  He spent 30 games in the Majors last year, but only produced a .167/.268.208 line with just 3 doubles and 3 RBIs.  Casali also played 70 games in the Minors last season including 46 games with the Durham Bulls.  He only hit .237/.335/.359 with the Bulls including 13 extra base hits.  I really think it might be a good thing that Casali is spending a little bit more time in the International League this year.

Casali will probably be the starting catcher for the Bulls to start the year, but the catching position is starting to get crowded for the Rays in the upper Minors.  The Bulls are also starting out the year with catcher Luke Maile on the team and highly regarded prospect Justin O'Conner is starting out in Double A with the Montgomery Biscuits.  It will be curious to see how the playing time works out this year with the catchers.

Cardwise Casali only has two cards.  They're both autographed.  The better of the two cards comes from last year's Bowman Platinum set.....

Not a really hard, nor expensive, card to find.  I picked one of these cards up at some point last year, and cannot remember the exact amount of money I paid for the card, but it was really cheap.  There are half of dozen of these cards on Ebay right now for less than $5 and several of them cost less than $3.  His other card is a little trickier.....

because I do not own one.  What is an Onyx Platinum Elite?  I am not sure.  For $2.99 I am tempted, and that may happen one day, if I can maybe get it down to $0.99.  Maybe.  In the meantime, I am stuck with just 50% of the Curt Casali cards out on the market.  Not a terrible feeling.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Dylan Floro

Dylan Floro was the Rays 13th round draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2012.  He had great numbers in the lower minors, but did not appear on any baseball cards until last summer when he reached Double A Montgomery where he proceeded to post the worst numbers of his career.  During the 2012 and 2013 seasons Floro played for a total of three Rays affiliates and went 4-1 2.40, 2-0, 1.61, and 9-2 1.81 in those three stops for a total record of 15-3.

Notice I did not post strikeout numbers for Floro.  He is primarily a roundball pitcher, and while he can get strikeouts, 232 in 346 minor league innings, it's clearly not what he is trying to do out there on the mound.  Last season in Montgomery Floro went 11-13 in 28 starts with an ERA of 3.48.   The bad news was that he gave up 209 hits in 178.2 innings.  The good news is that only 4 of those hits left the yard.  Give me a summer of Hak Ju Lee fielding his grounders and I like his chances to have a good year for the Bulls.

As I was saying at the beginning of the post, last summer was Floro's first year in baseball card sets.  He appeared in Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Inception.  His Bowman card is in the prospects section of the set and offers not only his rookie card, but all of those color rainbow variations to boot.  I landed a copy of his flag card which has a California flag in the background.  Pretty sweet card, easy to find, and really inexpensive.

Floor's first autographs are in the Bowman Inception and Bowman Chrome products.....

The Chrome autograph is one of those that you can get off of Ebay for $0.99 if you sit and watch the auction at the last minute.  If you don't feel like doing that they are selling for $1.50 on COMC.  There are colored variations of this Chrome autograph, but they are also inexpensive considering how much other players cost.  For example, his blue autograph out of 150 can be found for less than $10.

His best autograph is in the Bowman Inception product.  Like all Bowman product you can find this card in a variety of different colors and print runs.  I just got the plain jane Inception autograph and spent about $3 in the process.  The gold parallel is currently listed on COMC for just $5 and the green card is just $8.  Not a very expensive player to collect at all.