Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Congratulations to the Phillie Phanatic

The Philadelphia Phillies and the Philly Phanatic will be doing a lot of partying the next week or so, after the Phanatic's team captured the first World Series title for Philadelphia Phillies since 1980.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Collecting topics cards

Infamous - a tragic figure perhaps

Awesome action - The Human Vacuum Cleaner

Awesome action - making a Web Gem

Inking it up - obliging the fans

Awesome action - dirt is the name of the game

Cards like these is what makes up a bulk of my 'active thinking' collection - cards picked up here and there, not worth much at all, but are always guaranteed to make me smile and/or think a little deeper.

I've been getting back into collecting topics and database work - maybe it is the most cost-effective, yet interesting way to collect sports cards [though baseball is still the only one I actively collect] if you are on the sidelines as far as busting new product or picking up new singles.

I sort these cards out pack-war style - using unique collecting topics classifications, which may not be original, but ones I've adopted them for my own collecting use. I only store these cards in boxes, but it is a moral victory to see cards featuring the same theme, coming to life.

I look through the diversity, the numbers and enjoy rank-and-file cards and what they now represent - besides just the thousands of base cards I have no use for.

Any card maybe a collecting topic card and the idea almost no card is a common in my eyes is something challenging - but also encourages me to collect something, without resorting to having to pick up something like 7th Inning Stench repack boxes at my local retail store.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2008 World Series

You hear all the chatter and the hype with top prospects like - 'call-up Evan Longoria already, he is going to be a difference maker, he's going to be better than so-and-so [insert name of established veteran here] right now' or 'David Price is going to be up sooner than later.'

You tend to casually dismiss them, because they can't possibly fulfill their potential - or at least show why they were legitimate their No. 1 picks [Price No. 1 overall in 2007] in such a relatively short period of time.

You also dismiss the chatter when it comes to predicting the franchise fortunes of once lowly-teams getting high picks in the amateur draft - it is then exciting, but surprising when it is players like Longoria and Price thriving in October, right now and not five years down the line [or never].

The only sad thing is when you realize those are someone else's dreams realized, some other fans' or others who have a stake in these young players.

While the ratings may not show it - the 2008 World Series looks to be a showcase for baseball's brightest young talents and established veterans.

Can't say much about the Phillies except wouldn't it be just great if they won the World Series already [?] - it just brings some closure to the hunger pangs rabid fans have had since 1980 and a World Series Championship is kind of a final nail to the coffin to their rivalry with the New York Mets over the last several years.

Here is a position-by-position look at both teams -

First baseman Ryan Howard has been more consistent and prolific through his Major League career but side-by-side he and Carlos Pena are similar players [Howard may have 70-75 pounds on Pena of course] - the Rays may have the edge, if Howard is in a power slump. Pena seems to be a little more athletic and maybe able to do a little more defensively, if he is shut down with the bat.

Second baseman Chase Utley's power has come and gone, but the fact he can pop a home run at any time, makes him a more imminent threat - the Rays' Akinori Iwamura will have his moments and he is type of complimentary player who contributes to championship teams.

Third baseman Evan Longoria maybe the most important player in this series - as he goes, so do the Rays. Each year there seems to be a breakout player and Longoria is the guy in 2008. For the Phillies, Pedro Feliz is a hacker who may be a surprising performer with his ability to 'grind out' at-bats and hit for power.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has been a league MVP and while he had a down year, there is no contest as to who is the better shortstop in this upcoming World Series - the Rays' Jason Bartlett is more Chris Gomez than anything else and may not hit enough.

Left fielder Carl Crawford has a little more athletic ability to cover ground in outfield - while the Phillies' Pat Burrell is more proficient at the plate, with patient and powerful presence.

Center fielder B.J. Upton has powered the Rays, but then Shane Victorino has lit the fire for the Phillies - it maybe a 'push,' if each player plays like they have in recent weeks.

Right fielder Jayson Werth offers the stability - the two headed platoon of Gabe Gross and Rocco Baldelli may not offer.

Catcher Dioner Navarro has proven to be no afterthought - after bouncing from the New York Yankees to the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Rays' No. 1 catcher in their first World Series.

Designated hitter [Rays] - they can trot out some lefty sticks like Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs, but the Rays have their pick Cliff Floyd, Rocco Baldelli and Willy Aybar.

Starting pitching [Rays] - It is hard to argue with Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine, but Cole Hamels can shut any team down and I hear Brett Myers has turned into quite the hitter [besides his boxing exploits and hitting his wife of course]. Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton are bookends to the Phillies' rotation.

Relief pitching [Rays] - the Rays trot out a gutty group of guys, but they've been exposed in the American League Championship Series. If they can somehow regroup and not be required to pitch as much as they did in the ALCS, they will be in much better shape with David Price suddenly being their No. 1 equalizer.

For the Phillies, Brad Lidge has been automatic - and he really has no reason not to continue his season long excellence, though it seems he has shown he does have the potential to be another Mitch Williams.

Final thoughts - the Philadelphia Phillies will take the first championship since 1980 if Howard, Utley and Burrell hit their expected share of home runs. If they don't hit, then it will be tough for them to score runs.

If the Rays' starting pitching can shut the Phillies' middle-of-the-lineup down, then the Rays have the ability to push the series to the limit and actually win - the key for the Rays is to get on the board early, so the starting pitchers have the confidence to go deep into games, and ultimately not have to rely on their relievers to pitch multiple innings game-by-game.

The series may come down to who makes more athletics plays i.e ability to run the bases [advance] - as well as on defense [catching the ball, not making mental mistakes].

Featured card: Joe Maddon 2007 Topps #266

Joe Maddon doesn't have the perception of a conventional manager - but doesn't come off as a goofy, say-anything guy either. It seems like he has the ability to manage his team without the complications many sophisticated fans these days grumble about.

The back of his 2007 Topps card seems to succintly describe his professional career in baseball - though leading his 2008 Rays team to the World Series may mean another line [or paragraph] to his bio.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cardboard meanderings

Sorting cards late at night - this is essentially what I did in the early through late 1990s, when I was getting a grasp of consciously collecting, whether or not what I collected was crap. I would be in my room, alone, just trying to sort cards here and there [circa 1992].

I guess the 'dynamics' of what actually happened is a little fuzzy because there always 'blind spots' when it comes your memories of something - I might have the radio on, listening to some mid 1980s - early 1990s pop playing on the local radio station.

Maybe I'd be sorting random cards, trying to put together enough to rival my collecting peers - even though it seemed like I could only compete in little bits and pieces.

Instead of having a comprehensive collection of all the good cards [then] - there was always a feeling of knowing better [I always read the Beckett cover-to-cover, every month] and seeing the cards as the end-all, be-all of any hobbies I'd concentrated on before [and after].

I've never really taken time away from collecting and over the last 10 years, I've paginated cards together and there is a sentiment to keep things together - I bought plastic sheets [in various ways], acquired cards [through various ways] and arranged them by player [and typically some other classifications] in at least 10-15 binders.

Now, when I do a little housekeeping and designate a set of players' cards to go somewhere else [maybe even discard certain cards] - I see what I've 'built' up and it seems like I'm breaking a link to a part of trading card history I inadvertedly created for myself.

On the flip side, I worry I won't be able to keep track of everything I've picked up. It is pitiful, when I lose random things, like two jersey cards of little quality - one card was a Tristar Brandon Wood jersey card [worth about $2], that I definitely don't have anymore, since I lost it trying to get him to sign something in-person.

Another card is a Hank Blalock jumbo jersey card, worth about $2 as well - it is ironic I blogged about these cards as part of group purchase, from the same seller. I don't know where the Blalock is and I might have misplaced it, playing around with the card holder it was in.

Top five things on my mind

1.) No definitive personal collection - at times it is so hard to figure out where you want to go. You want a little bit of everything, but then cards seem like a finite endeavor when you aren't planning on spending a lot. I have to be more creative, getting the cards I want, but with new pickups, where do themes [maybe player, team, card type, for a long-term or short-term collection, et al] fit in?

2.) It is one thing to buy a box of cards - but another thing to have to spend $$$ when you aren't guaranteed anything for your personal collection. It is so hard to figure out, which box to pick-up. I'd like to pick up some 'older' boxes and sets [within the last two years] like 2007 Upper Deck SP Rookie Edition, 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces, 2007 Topps factory set, Tristar minor league product, et al. On the other hand, the idea of breaking boxes flops, when you realize every box you want is junk you can't afford, with regards to trying to do other things with your collecting endeavors.

3.) My personal junk wax solution is to pick up rookie card singles - everyone may have these cards and you can probably customize your own list, but in an 'old-school' way, basic rookie cards still mean something; 1983 Topps Tony Gwynn $6, 1992 Bowman Mike Piazza $10-$15, 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera, 1992 Bowman Carlos Delgado $10, 1992 Topps Traded Nomar Garciaparra $10 and 1993 Bowman Derek Jeter $10.

4.) For multisport collectors, these cards add instant credibility to your collection - for around the price of a hobby box of cards.

1975 Topps George Brett
1980 Topps Rickey Henderson
1981 Topps Joe Montana
1984 Topps John Elway

5.) Certified autograph / low-end memorabilia cards - patch and multiple material cards of superstars and Hall of Famers; certified autographs of young top prospects, stars, all-stars and select superstars/Hall of Famers and HOF icons.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Card show purchases #3

Spent $14 on an assorted number of common cards - this was Part III of my purchase, but didn't get to post it. Out of the three purchases posted, this cost the most [$10], though it was more about quantity than quality [it would seem].

At the show I go to, there is a booth with bins filled with random cards bundled up with rubber bands - maybe six or seven years ago, it was 'top heavy' with scrap commons [poor-fair-good] going back from at least the 1960s through whatever there was in the last 30 years or so.

There is still a random mix here and there, but probably less 'vintage' cards - sometimes I've seen 'newer' brands of cards [within the last couple of years] put together.

It is typically 10-15 cards of the same brand, featuring base cards/commons. I took a chance picking up 10 random stacks of cards [$10] - I thought I might find a card you might be able to get autographed randomly [my bread and butter] in-person or through the mail.

2006 Topps '52 - could have done without these. No matter how you flip through them, they all feel like repacked 1987 Topps to me, with lots of cards of guys I could care less about.

#246 Dan Uggla
#62 Ruddy Lugo
#25 Chris Roberson
#73 Cody Ross
#165 Joel Guzman
#37 Jeff Karstens
#109 Jason Kubel
#238 Bartolome Fortunato
#226 Bernie Castro
#202 Franklin Gutierrez

2006 Topps '52 - I'm doubting this purchase
#257 Zach Jackson
#90 Tyler Johnson
#245 Tom Gorzelanny
#234 Scott Dunn
#244 Alexis Gomez
#258 Charlton Jimerson
#105 Chris Resop
#267 Paul McAnulty
#247 Jeremy Guthrie

2006 Topps '52 - no one really good
#139 Carlos Ruiz
#159 Colter Bean
#189 Kevin Barry
#161 Kevin Reese
#97 Macay McBride
#131 Matt Albers
#147 Martin Prado

#123 Davis Romero - look about 40 on his card
#273 Ronny Paulino
#229 Roy Corcoran

2006 Topps '52 - no one really good
#173 Taylor Tankersley
#249 Brendan Harris
#145 Jason Bergmann
#25 Chris Roberson
#208 John Hattig
#80 Joe Nelson
#152 Joe Inglett
#243 Justin Germano
#228 Doug Clark
#219 Ron Flores

2006 Topps '52 - no one really good / these were pretty much drecks
#15 Norris Hopper
#27 Kevin Frandsen
#3 Chuck James
#37 Jeff Karstens
#109 Jason Kubel
#145 Jason Bergmann
#80 Joe Nelson
#85 Yurendell De Caster
#260 Mitch Jones
#232 Rajai Davis

2006 Bowman Heritage - it seems like the guy bundled up 20-25 cards instead of 10-15.
#189 Jorge Cantu
3 of 3 Checklist
#187 Jose Castillo
#184 Juan Encarnacion
#179 Kevin Youkilis
#171 Coco Crisp
#166 CC Sabathia
#163 David DeJesus
#159 Jose Lopez
#135 Curtis Granderson
#125 Derrek Lee
#124 Erik Bedard
#121 Joe Crede
#118 Eric Byrnes
#113 Chad Cordero
#112 Bronson Arroyo
#104 Juan Uribe
#98 Bengie Molina
#95 Robinson Cano
#78 Adam LaRoche
#76 A.J. Pierzynski x2
#62 Gary Matthews Jr.
#57 Ty Wigginton
#49 Mark Kotsay
#39 Eric Chavez
#34 Doug Davis
#22 Dan Haren
#279 Jered Weaver
#18 Mark Mulder
#14 Michael Cuddyer

2006 Bowman Heritage
#6 Jake Peavy
2 of 3 Checklist
BHP 95 Chad Huffman
BHP 94 Brad Furnish
BHP 93 Brooks Brown
BHP 88 Billy Rowell
- he is supposed to be some sort of top prospect, but I have heard nothing really positive about his development as a professional.
BHP 85 Clayton Kershaw - now, here is a nice $2-$3 first-year card.
BHP 81 Chad Tracy
BHP 80 Dustin Evans
BHP 75 Kyle McCulloch
BHP 68 Jose Campusano
BHP 65 Adam Coe
BHP 68 Dale Thayer
BHP 57 Brian Horwitz
BHP 54 Steve Kelly
BHP 53 Andrew Kown

2006 Bowman Heritage - I was thinking of buying a box of this stuff, but I see why I probably shouldn't.
BHP 49 Landon Jacobsen
2 of 3 Checklist
BHP 35 John Bannister
BHP 59 Diory Hernandez
BHP 31 Brandon Moss
BHP 29 Welinson Baez
BHP 28 Chris Dickerson
BHP 25 Brent Dlugach
BHP 22 Radhamez Liz
BHP 16 Nate Gold
BHP 9 Yung-Chi Chen
BHP 8 Nick Adenhart
BHP 7 Ben Copeland
BHP 5 Garrett Mock
#46 Carlos Zambrano
BHP 4 Cameron Maybin
- another nice first-year card, though probably only worht about $1.50.
#247 Jeremy Hermida
#246 John Lester
#228 Kevin Thompson
#221 Craig Hansen
#213 Hanley Ramirez
#203 Matt Kemp
#194 Mark Buehrle
#192 Adrian Gonzalez

2007 Topps Allen and Ginter
#106 CC Sabathia
#324 Ian Kinsler
#305 Jeremy Bonderman
#216 Rickie Weeks
#151 Bob Wickman
#70 Jermaine Dye
#347 Anibal Sanchez
#268 Washington Monument
#176 Bronson Arroyo - needed
#222 Rocco Baldelli - needed

2007 Topps Allen and Ginter
#347 Anibal Sanchez
#63 Bengie Molina
#247 Dave Roberts
#342 Chad Cordero
#190 Scott Kazmir
#341 Adrian Gonzalez
#264 Aaron Rowand

#203 Justin Verlander - needed
#81 Mike Sweeney

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It is all about the possibilities

With the Angels' out of it, I'm not emotionally attached to any of the teams playing in the American League Championship Series - the Tampa Bay Rays have been getting too much hype and too much love since their break out season and maybe they need to be knocked off their pedestal.

On the other hand, compared to the Boston Red Sox, they are still the plucky underdogs - a trip to the World Series [and or even winning the whole thing] would just shake Major League Baseball up.

If the Red Sox advance and win another World Series - they officially become the model Major League team of the 21st century, leapfrogging over the New York Yankees in status.

In the National League Championship Series - I like the Los Angeles Dodgers to win against the Philadelphia Phillies because I've never had any compelling feelings for the Phillies, while the Dodgers are led by Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez.

How interesting can things get when Torre is four wins away from reaching the World Series - after seemingly hearing he had lost his touch in New York? Maybe there were random grumblings [from the media, from Gary Sheffield] about Torre not being difference maker, except managing the best players money can buy in New York.

Now, he is working some of his mojo and it seems ironic he is where he is - while the Yankees failed to make the playoffs in 2008.

I guess I can jump on the Dodgers bandwagon when convenient - I can't root for them to win the World Series because I'm an Angels fan and it doesn't feel right to see another 'local' team besides the Halos win it all.

For full disclosure - it isn't the worst thing in the world if they advance and actually win the whole thing. On the other hand, they will be so tough to approach for random autograph signings in-person in the next year. Perhaps I want them to fall just short.

Imagine the scenarios if Manny being Manny's team advances to face his former team in the World Series - who unceremoniously dumped him, kicked him out the door, threw him infront of the bus, locked the doors out on him. Wouldn't it be sweet revenge to see him lead his Los Angeles Dodgers' against the Boston Red Sox?

The season is over for the Angels

One run could have given the Angels the chance to win - despite another 'shut down' outing by Boston's Jon Lester in Game 4.

The Angels lost, 3-2, to the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Division Series - it means no prolonged in-person autograph opportunities for me and it is time to really get focused on sorting cards for fun and for my autograph endeavors next season.

Angels' hitters were getting hits left and right during the series - with a runner at third base and one-out in the ninth inning, a 'lousy single' would have scored the go-ahead run and these stumbling, bumbling, sloppy Angels may have escaped with a win.

All game long, I kept waiting for the Angels to come through and when Torii Hunter got his game-tying hit top of the eighth inning - I had a temporary reprieve, feeling there was no way he'd let me down, with the dire situation the Angels were in.

In the ninth inning, Kendry Morales doubled, was pinch-run for by Reggie Willits and Howie Kendrick laid down a sacrifice bunt - advance Willits to third base.

I'll echo the sentiments of many and with a runner on third base and one out - you let your batter hit the ball and take two shots to get the potential game-winning run home. It kind of defeated the purpose, watching Erick Aybar botch the bunt on a squeeze and to see Willits get caught off third base.

Now the year is done and it is back to the drawing board - the Angels' franchise has never been more healthier in its 48 year history, but then all the franchise success, the season success doesn't matter, if you aren't the last team standing at the end of October.

Willits - maybe depended on this guy too much, but wasn't a good late-inning defensive replacement and it was kind of sad the Angels were forced to trot this guy out since Gary Matthews Jr. is a just a bum.

PS: Jed Lowrie - seemed like he was hitting rockets and a guy who made adjustments when he needed to.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Card show purchases #2

Spent $14 on an assorted number of common cards - I actually found a stack of random Projections Tristar minor league cards [I am sure these cards are from their 'high series']. They were in a box listed as '6 for $1' and I jumped at a chance to pick about 18 cards up, after not being able to find any during a card shop trip.

Projections seems like a comphrensive minor-league card product but they remind me of 1991 Classic Minor League and/or 1992 Upper Deck Minor League - mass produced minor league cards released through packs [as opposed to perhaps minor league cards released through team sets] where you seemed to have an endless number of names [including guys were never going to make a 40-man roster].

Tristar is a niche product for casual collectors who thinks the company can offer something a little different - on the other hand, while the cards are not bad looking at all, one thing annoying me is the birthdates listed in the bio on the back of the cards. They are at least three to four years off and I wonder if a team of monkeys proof read the back of these cards.

#221 Jake Arrieta - Baltimore Orioles organization
#242 Sean Rodriguez - Angels

#272 Adam Olbrychowski - New York Yankees organization
#287 Barry Enright - Arizona Diamondbacks organization
#291 Jeffrey Locke - Atlanta Braves organization
#295 Jeremy Haynes - Angels organization
#298 Tommy Hunter - Texas Rangers
#307 Andrew Romine - Angels organization
#311 James Simmons - Oakland Athletics organization
#326 Mason Tobin - Angels organization
#331 Brett Anderson - Oakland Athletics organization
#332 Chris Carter - Oakland Athletics organization
#378 Eric Hurley - Texas Rangers
#396 Dexter Fowler - Colorado Rockies' organization
#397 Matt Harrison - Texas Rangers
#399 Desmond Jennings - Tampa Bay Rays organization

#327 Jordan Walden Reflective - Angels organization
#385 Chris Carter Reflective - Boston Red Sox organization

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Card show purchases #1

Spent $14 on an assorted number of common cards - it seems like I'm scraping at the bottom of the barrel, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet, digging around a dime box [and only spending $1 because 'you only like the cheap stuff'] to find some overlooked, scrap cards.

1994 Pinnacle
#165 Brady Anderson Museum Collection
- it is a parallel of sweet common card featuring the athletic Anderson leaping to try and make the grab.

2005 Topps Update and Highlights - I don't care for these guys' cards, but if I see them, I'll approach them to sign.

UH 232 Humberto Sanchez
UH 242 Cody Haerther
UH 268 Ryan Feierabend
UH 285 Vinny Rottino
UH 303 Manny Parra

2007 Topps Allen and Ginter
#220 Ryan Zimmerman - hopefully I need this card.

2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces - I can't get enough of these cards, though I don't know how to start collecting them and/or really find a reason to besides liking the way they look.

#63 Stephen Drew - he has become an all-star performer in 2008, though his on-base percentage needs to go up.
#67 Ryan Zimmerman
#90 Curt Schilling
- the card's image tells you everything.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

It is what it is

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are down 2-0 in the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox and while I hold out hope - I'm already counting the reasons why they've lost the series and the opportunity to move on.

The Angels' pitchers have just been good enough - but not great enough really overcome uneven hitting by the Angels' lineup. You see guys like Garret Anderson, Mark Teixeira, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter string along hits. You see Chone Figgins finally be able to do a little of his thing here-and-there.

Then you have a guy like Howie Kendrick, who maybe the best hitter the Angels' have as far as being able to make contact - he's not going good right now, so he is not putting the bat to the ball. He seems to be swinging at the junk he otherwise make good contact with, if he isn't in this slump. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem the plate discipline to lay-off pitches, so he has to swing for his life.

The best at-bat in the Angels' past two games against the Red Sox - maybe catcher Mike Napoli's bases loaded walk in the seventh inning in the Angels' 7-5 Game 2 defeat. It allowed the Angels to get within one run of the Red Sox [5-4] and ultimately allowed the Angels to tie the game in the eighth inning.

I wish the Angels had more hitters like Napoli [and Teixeira] who have an idea of what their doing at the plate - instead of guys who are 'hack-first' guys, who despite their successes, are prone to give away at-bats [GA, Vladimir Guerrero] from time-to-time.

Maicer Izturis - with his season-ending injury, there has been no viable options to give Kendrick and/or shortstop Erick Aybar a breather.

Francisco Rodriguez - he's always 'the man,' in my book, but he imploded in Game 2 and doesn't end on a particularly high note [if Friday night was his last appearance as a Halo]. Couldn't the Angels have ridden Scot Shields a few more innings during Game 2? It seemed like Angels' manager Mike Scioscia pulled too quickly, just to find a reason to get K-Rod in the game.

Jason Bay - how was this guy ever going to replace Manny? This guy has starred for a second division team and now he is supposed to be a key part of a championship contender? I think that was one of the complaints I either read or heard. I wasn't particularly impressed or enamored by the guy, but except for his atrocious 2007 season, he does two very important things right [get on-base and hit for a lot of power].

J.D. Drew - for me, he is a easy guy to hate and pile on, but he is kind of this silent assassin these days. He seems to be a guy that will beg out of the lineup for time-to-time and is merely a Major League Baseball player because he is very good at it. On the other hand, between last year's postseason, this year's all-star game and now with his game winning home run in Game 2 - Drew has really put together an impressive resume within the last year.

Jonathan Papelbon - he's an ass in the biggest way, but he is probably branded as confident and also a character. You come up with some positive code words to describe a cocky prima donna with an ego like Papelbon because he seems like he comes from Anytown, USA.

Not to take away anything from Papelbon - it is disheartening for opposing batters and opposing team's fans, but it seems like when he comes into a game, it is pretty much 'lights out.'