Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dealing with the superstars

I'm trying to understand this desire to load up on assorted cards of superstar players [past and present] - but then would you pay more than a quarter for cards you really can't do anything to. I've never been a serious set collector, so I don't need particular cards for sets.

Maybe I want to pick up cheap non-autograph inserts during the past 15-20 years just to sate some sort of revisionist collecting itch - maybe pick up shiny, old school inserts from the super premium era of the 1990s? Or maybe pick up all the rookie cards of the hot players back 15-20 years ago, but are now in monster boxes for a quarter or $0.50 each.

Maybe I want to pick up assorted base star cards - from sets printed when I didn't even know what a baseball card was or from sets that was initially considered a high-end, expensive product during its release [like 1989 Upper Deck and 1990 Leaf as far the time frame is concerned].

They are all sitting in monster boxes and handfuls of them need to be liberated, but whether it is new cards or old cards - part of it is the mentality of trying to salvage treasure as a baseball card collector and putting some context in-between the things I see as far as modern collectors not really collecting, but gambling.

Maybe I'm doing some gambling myself
- but I'm sticking to the penny slots, knowing I'm not a high-roller.

On the other hand, if I'm just 'have not' doing with what I can because I can't afford better cards - why bother when it all becomes clutter to me just the same and it doesn't make sense to build something up that I don't feel will make a positive impact in my collecting endeavors.

Maybe I want to show off my vast knowledge of cards on this blog - maybe I want to be like DayF over at Cardboard Junkie, whom I don't think never has met a piece of cardboard he didn't like, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, other sports and non-sports cards.

The most important thing for me is get cards to be signed in-person or through the mail - I don't exactly care for many of the cards [typically base cards/cheap inserts] of the established players I have in those binders [though it maybe a small accomplishment I have 15-20 cards of particular players housed in nine-pocket sheets].

Why would I need more cards worth not much more than a quarter each - when I've already built up an archive of cards over the years. When does picking up a base star cards/non-autographed inserts going pay off when there is so much more.

Superbowl XLIII commentary

I'll probably enjoy a lazy Sunday, holed up on a couch at home, watching the Big Game by myself - no snacks, no treats, no frills, no HD, no big screen. I might even watch the game in 'snippets,' meaning my attention will be focused mostly when I assume big plays are going to happen or at least when it is commercial time. Forget Bruce, I'll be checking out blogs during the halftime show to see who else has busted 2009 Topps already. Maybe there will be leftovers, maybe there won't. However, all the cheering and booing will be done by me.

If the Arizona Cardinals score early and often against the Pittsburgh Steelers, I think they will win - how can you not score with Kurt Warner at quarterback, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin as your primary receivers [think both will have to be involved for the Cardinals to win], the running back duo of the resurgent Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower.

I think it goes without saying, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is key and if they implode - it will be much more harder for the Steelers do anything if they are down 14-20 points by the first half.

I see Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger as sort of a 'hack' of a quarterback because at times, he looks ugly getting the job done - it makes him a more exciting player however to see him improvise and mimic a Brett Favre. Frankly, I wouldn't bet against Big Ben him in the big game because he is simply a playmaker.

The Cardinals need to constantly pressure Roethlisberger and clamp down on him once he is out of the pocket - it limits Roethlisberger's ability to improvise and come up with some miracle throw or use his legs to gain some positive yards.

If the Cardinals let the Steelers hang around early
- then it allows Big Ben and his offense can put together some game-changing plays. If you give Big Ben one more chance, then he'll stab you in the heart.

Final score prediction - 38-24 Cardinals

Friday, January 30, 2009

Featured card: 2003 Studio Big League Challenge Materials Barry Bonds NNO

I found the following image in a trading card folder - I'm probably in the minority and would be considered a 'Bonds apologist,' but I thought the card was funny [and appropriate], in light of the events taking place behind the scenes, before good ole' Barry Lamar Bonds' trial on March 2.

I didn't not create the card image - I probably found it on a baseball card forum and saved it for posterity. I like how Bonds is smiling like he just doesn't give a hoot. Of course, the image was taken during the time when he was popping home runs left and right as the most feared slugger in the Major Leagues. Of course the card is a parody created in Photoshop and does not have anything to do with the image featured.

Long after Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee [trainer], Kirk Radomski [supplier], Mark McGwire, Brian Roberts, Shawne Merriman [NFL], Lance Armstrong [bicyling], Marion Jones [track and field star], Chuck Knoblauch, Andy Pettitte, Jay Gibbons, Eric Gagne, Paul LoDuca, Dave Justice, Mo Vaughn, insert name of athlete here, et al - the government is still bent on making Bonds the Michael Vick of performance enhancing drug use among professional athletes in America.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Featured autograph - Xavier Nady

New York Yankees' left fielder Xavier Nady returned the card [on Jan. 27] I sent to him personalized and signed in blue ink - I either sent it out some times in 2007 or some time in 2008 when he was still with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I think there were one or two other cards I sent, though I don't remember - I was just surprised at getting Nady back, thinking I was going to get a more recent request back in a SASE I found in my mailbox. The SASE was postmarked from San Diego and I was wondering who I'd written to down there in recent months.

I always like saying his first name and thought he was going to be star when he was drafted by the San Diego Padres back in 2000 - it sort of took a while for Nady to establish himself in the Major Leagues with the Padres, then he bounced around with the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2008, he had a breakthrough season split between the Pirates and the New York Yankees - he played in 148 games and in 555 at-bats, hit 25 home runs, drove 97 runs and hit .305. He also posted an on-base percentage of .357 and he slugged .510.

At times you will get athletes who insist on personalizing items presented to them in-person - and sometimes they will do so on their own, when you send something for them to sign in the mail.

These days, athletes personalize because they literally want to protect the value of their name - if they are not going to personalize something, both the athlete and his agent feel like they should be getting paid.

I personally would prefer any card or item autographed, not personalized- though I find personalizations are unique and do not mind them. I figure I have many autographs in my collection that aren't personalized and I'm fine with the odd card or item that is made out with my name.

NBA, Panini, trading cards and you

It is a good thing I don't collect basketball - though I can't say I haven't tried to collect it one way or the other at least a few times in the last 20 years, for one reason or the other.

However, it is staggering to learn about the NBA reaching agreement with Panini - to become the sole producer of NBA trading cards.

I think Panini just threw so much money at the NBA - it was an offer they couldn't refuse, despite the fact Panini is known in the United States more for its sticker books printed more than 20 years ago.

Would Panini even have the motivation or is their plan to radicalize the trading card industry - to bring it back to the 'Stone Ages,' where you had one choice, one option for trading cards.

How many products will Panini put out [?] - is it conceivable that they may only put out one flagship brand of cards for an entire year? Would basketball collectors only have one option? I doubt that will be the case, but is Panini capable of creating products that distinguish themselves between low-end, midlevel and high-end?

Would that be realistic and if it were to happen - would it be something to sap the money aspect about collecting cards as far as commodities? While there might be more mainstream interest, would serious card collectors just quit the hobby? Does this new agreement signal the death of the modern basketball card as it is valued by serious collectors?

I cannot name a basketball product from Topps, so I could care less if there were no more Topps basketball cards - at the very least, Upper Deck has exclusives like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to possibly juice up any product they decide to produce. I would think the NBA would have come to an agreement with Upper Deck as far as exclusive rights to print their cards [like how I believe it is in the NHL].

Having Panini as the sole trading card company to produce NBA trading cards is like O-Pee-Chee [long before Upper Deck bought its rights] -being handed the keys to produce every single Major League Baseball card.

I wonder how it will affect basketball trading cards and will it be conceivable - something like this would happen to the baseball card industry.

Beckett blog link - to the news

Beckett blog link - NBA's reaction

Wax Heaven blog link - Topps and Upper Deck's reaction

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Featured cards: Kenshin Kawakami

Kawakami is one of the veteran imports out of Japan coming over to play Major League Baseball this upcoming season - he signed with the Atlanta Braves and they are looking to get something out of him.

My friend rounded up some loose Japanese cards of Kawakami - and also other players like this guy. I think they are all subset cards and none of them are rookie cards. They are coated with gloss on both sides and are somewhat aesthetically pleasing.

It seems like the Atlanta Braves' starting rotation looks better that it did several months ago - though the team hasn't been in the postseason since 2005 and the buzz has been with teams like the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies.

It will be interesting to see how the Braves' starting rotation holds up - when things break down if guys don't perform well, take a step back instead of take a step forward and really aren't as good as expected.

Derek Lowe didn't have a defined role when he first came to the Major Leagues - but his talents have enabled him to be a well-paid starting pitcher, despite not always being faithful to his home team.

Jair Jurrjens didn't really come out of nowhere - but had a nice breakthrough season in his first full season in the Major Leagues in 2008.

Jorge Campillo saved the staff, though he is pretty much garbage to me since Vlad - is probably at the top of my personal list of favorite players to watch play.

Javier Vazquez needs to grow a pair [check out his last three regular season starts in 2008, not to mention his 2008 American League Division Series start] - but at the end of the year you look at his ability to pitch 200 innings a year [while striking out nearly the same number of hitters as innings pitched] and you see a workhorse whom you roll the dice with every year.

Vazquez has also recorded double digit wins in nine of 11 Major League seasons - you can almost say he is the epitome of a quality No. 3 starter.

Tim Hudson probably isn't coming back for a while and neither is Tom Glavine - whom I think is really looking to leave the game on his own terms and is still trying to make a comeback despite some long odds.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Featured card: 2004 Score Larry Fitzgerald #373

I haven't dabbled in collecting much football cards and have no such thing as a Kurt Warner rookie card to show off, but I do have this 2004 Score rookie card of Warner's No. 1 go-to-guy, Larry Fitzgerald - with the former grocer [Warner] slinging passes to the former ball boy of the Minnesota Vikings [Fitzgerald], the Arizona Cardinals have gotten to Super Bowl XLIII.

All I can say with a straight face the card featured is now legitimately worth a couple of bucks, even though the back is off-center - I said a few bucks, not a million dollars...

It probably would not be out of place to symbolically put Fitzgerald's card alongside another football rookie card - I have in my personal collection.

Who knows if Fitzgerald will be as accomplished as Jerry Rice was when Fitzgerald finishes his career - but he is probably playing the best football in his NFL career and he is only 25 years old.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Third blog bat around - thinking about 2009

I'm a middle of the road type of collector, so I grab stuff that catches my eye - not because I'm going to 'rip and flip,' but because I'm a baseball card junkie who strives to keep up his one last link to his adolescence.

Topps and Upper Deck need to put out more product that isn't going to insult the collector - it seemed like I didn't bother with most of Upper Deck's products because there was no greater appeal with brands like Spectrum, SPX, X, Heroes for example.

I busted some 2008 Upper Deck Timeline packs and like the product - but quality control problems hindered the appeal.

With Topps, they always put on a show with their sell sheets for their products [an average collector has access to these online] - but actual, nice pulls seem far and few in-between in their products.

For 2009, here is what I'd like to see Topps, Upper Deck and other companies - possibly producing baseball cards.

1.) Have more cards per pack like 2008 Upper Deck with 18 cards - it seemed like the collector got a little more cards to flip through for a $3 pack.

2.) While mediocre 'hits' are par for the course, tighten up the insert checklist - what happened to the superstar certified autograph or super patch card? Collectors don't like pulling plain swatch material cards of middling players and certified autograph cards of middle relievers and utility guys because collectors can sniff out when companies are trying to be cheap.

It is nicer to try and complete a set of inserts - knowing it has some value and knowing there are marquee players to chase.

3.) No 'weird' autographs - leave the 1980s hair bands or the D-list 'celebrities' alone Upper Deck. No one needs autographs of subjects whose notoriety rests on the fact he or she is going to be in rehab and it is going to be filmed for a reality show. A Donruss Fans of the Game type of insert would be nice, where you have celebrity baseball fans featured on cards.

4.) Don't manipulate a type of insert set to produce a cheaper type of card that people typically associate with a big hit - certain card types should retain a certain appeal and to find the quad autograph card or quad material card worth little, because there are a billion of them takes the fun out of busting packs like 2008 Upper Deck Ballpark.

5.) Quality control - opening a pack of cards and seeing roller marks, nicks and dings is something to shy away from.

6.) Have some fun thinking up a retro themed set - and find a way to incorporate a 'vintage' design for one product and make it a stand alone set [at least 200 cards] with a comprehensive player checklist. There are a lot Upper Deck and Topps can do in-between.

While Topps Heritage and Topps Allen and Ginter are set builders' staples - a quirky product like 2008 Upper Deck Timeline was more fun to bust because it had a little bit of something for everyone.

7.) Have minimal subsets - one subset per base set is fine, but having all sorts of manager, team, leaders, checklist cards dilute from the base set.

8.) Include a checklist sheet/card per box - it may not be a new concept for a set builder, but I'd like to figure out what I've pulled, what I have and what I still need.

9.) For non-memorabilia, non-autograph cards - create better parallels and not cheap inserts to include as hits.

10.) Old faces, new places - planning for product takes some time, so Topps and Upper Deck need to figure out how to print old players' cards with their new teams i.e. get all the off-season trades, signings and other transactions.

A second look

2008 Topps Stadium Club - it is kind confusing how the product is put together with the hobby and retail variations in the base set. Hobby was priced as 'high-end' even with midlevel specifications. I think retail was an appropriate way to get these cards if you kind of wanted to see what this was all about. The product was nice even though every other collector was looking for different things, when the news Topps was bringing back SC first came out.

2008 Tristar Projections - a two-series set of 400 minor league player cards [including New York Yankees' failed prospect Billy Crystal, who had one spring training at-bat and was let go] was hard to ignore for an in-person or through the mail autograph collector who needed the cards signed. Many of the players are obscure [isn't that the point with a minor league product] and the better names already have cards produced by Donruss, Topps or Upper Deck. On the other hand, you do get eight hits per box, including four autographs and numbered cards.

2008 Prime Cuts IV - maybe prices for individual cards have leveled off in general and the inclusion of first-year and rookie type players is unecessary filler, but based on sell sheets alone, Prime Cuts IV takes the prize as the best high-end product of 2008. The kicker is it isn't even a licensed MLB/MLBPA product.

2008 Topps Sterling - maybe the worst high-end product, just because you are locked into a player once you open your box and if you don't a really big name, then you are likely to pull a less than stellar card.

2008 Razor - was supposed to be a radical product that leveled the prospecting playing field. People are sitting on this product now because singles have not exploded in value and people don't want to sell their average hits for $2-$4each.

Featured autograph - Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina returned the cards I sent to him signed in blue Sharpie in about two weeks - the first card was a dual player card I first sent to Chien-Ming Wang during last year's spring training. I like dual signed cards, but not when I cannot immediately complete the pair.

I was holding onto this card for much of the year, wondering when I would send it to Mussina - I figured I can send something to him anytime.

While Mussina has generally been considered a 'face' or 'role model' type, he seems like he doesn't always like the attention given to him - to his credit, after all the last 15 years or so, he has dutifully signed everything through the mail with nearly the same, consistent autograph. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn't changed his signing habits or suddenly stopped for whatever reason.

Ever since he entered the league, Mussina has been considered a 'star' and his career numbers are impressive - while there is a lot of discussions on forums and blogs about his Hall of Fame credentials, maybe he fall just falls short of election to the Hall of Fame because he wasn't able to win 300 games and/or win at least one championship after signing with the New York Yankees.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rickey Henderson

Not the greatest two shots in the world but I took them when Rickey Henderson played in the independent Golden League in 2005 - in the first picture, Henderson is signing autographs after the game. He was still looking to play in the Major Leagues and had some sort of reservation about signing anything related to Major League Baseball with his image. Maybe he was just looking to get paid to sign something. The second picture shows him warming up with his teammates.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jim Rice bandwagon

I tried getting Jim Rice's autograph once and he wasn't too friendly. I think he was trying to get to a cab in Anaheim when he was a coach with the Boston Red Sox in the early part of this decade or late 1990s - he kind of just blew by me and some people off and told the cab driver to 'get outta here' in a surly, 'get me away the hell from these people' manner.

In retrospect, Dennis Eckersley traveled with the Red Sox during the same time - he had no problems signing autographs and I was able to get a couple.

Rice maybe a dick in real life, but that doesn't mean I get the animosity towards Rice and it is like how people hate Joe Morgan as a broadcaster, don't believe in Dusty Baker's managerial skills hot air to me - as tempting as it seems, I'm not going to bother to listen or read these ramblings.

For those who debunk the myth of Rice labeled as a feared hitter - it is compliment, not a seal of approval people. I think certain people need to take a chill pill.

I suspect some bias and prejudice at play here by those who can work a keyboard - somehow breaking down Rice's stats bit-by-bit to invalidate his career. Baseball has become a sabermetrician's wet dream with the ability to manipulate, play, study the numbers.

It has been noted Rice has many shortcomings when it comes looking behind the numbers - where there is some merit for his induction.

However, if you do it with every player in the Hall of Fame - really break down someone's career numbers, you'll find something you don't like or something you can brush off, unless it comes to players of Rice's ilk.

Yeah Rice had to wait 15 years, things do change, people soften their grudges - perspective changes and isn't aren't the writers going to do the same things for the Steroid era's greatest sluggers?

Did Rice have to absolutely be heads and shoulders better than everyone else - for people clamoring for a player Don Mattingly to get in, apparently.

The same people who vehemently argue that Rice isn't a Hall of Famer - are probably the same schmucks who would probably not for Rickey Henderson.

I'm on the West Coast and I realize the East Coast bias is a term thrown around casually - but Rice was a seemingly surly, prickly player to his hometown media, why should they have rallied around him?

In short, Rice can probably tell you to look at the scoreboard - I don't think all the smart writers will be able to take the honor of being elected to the Hall of Fame from him.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2008 Upper Deck Timeline pull encore

2008 Upper Deck Timeline - after tearing through the first nine packs of my first box and seeing what I pulled, I finally got the composure to finish the last nine packs on the right hand row.

We'll jump to pack eight again - which was actually the second pack from the top

#17 Ken Griffey Jr.
#72 Jonathan Van Every
- rookie card subset
#124 Nick Swisher - 1992 Upper Deck Minors

BOOM - and there goes the land mine...with shrapnel hitting all around.

#181 Brandon Boggs - 1995 SP Top Prospects die-cut auto
#377 Eider Torres
- 1995 SP Premier Prospects die-cut
#168 Daisuke Matsuzaka - 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes
#195 Jesus Flores - 1995 SP Top Prospects die-cut
#212 Randy Johnson - 2004 Upper Deck Timeless Teams

I actually busted a box of Tristar Projections High # Series before starting on the last nine packs of Timeline - the Tristar Projections High # Series break was not as deliberate as the first nine packs of Timeline were. I don't know if it is worth it to showcase any other breaks beside these last two Timeline packs.

Friday, January 09, 2009

2008 Upper Deck Timeline pull

2008 Upper Deck Timeline - when my boxes arrived, I tore through the first nine packs from the bottom pack to the top on the left hand row.

We'll jump to pack eight - which was actually the second pack from the top
#23 Matt Kemp
#86 Jay Bruce
- rookie card subset
#112 Emmanuel Burriss - 1992 Upper Deck Minors
#81 Matt Tolbert - base rookie gold parallel
Signs of History - some kind of a filler card with scratch off feature
#126 Reed Johnson - 1992 Upper Deck Minors auto; after dreading pulling a possible Brandon Boggs auto [I would step on that mine with this box], I end up pulling an auto of this veteran fourth outfielder? He is pretty good for what he is and he went to my alma mater, Cal State Fullerton, but I've gotten his autograph [in-person] several times and he isn't exactly the latest or the greatest.
#170 Ryan Howard - 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes
#198 Josh Hamilton - 2005 SP Top Prospects die-cut
#237 Joey Votto - 2004 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes; like the image used which is of Votto wearing a camo jersey.

I bought two boxes for $31.95 each at Blowout Cards during a sale at the end of 2008 - which came with free holiday shipping.

Edit: I registered on the Upper Deck Web site and redeemed the card on 1/12/09.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Featured player - Koji Uehara

Didn't know or care about the guy pictured on the card as it was included in a team bag a friend gave me featuring seven Japanese baseball cards - with a small note he attached saying they are 'Future Major Leaguers.'

When I read this post on Orioles' Card "O" the Day - I checked if there was any Uehara cards among the seven my friend had given me and I actually found one. I guess my friend was right on the money and know I'll be looking to get the card inked up either through the mail or eventually in-person.

Featured autograph - Andy Hassler

I've known collectors who strictly collect autographs of a particular team [like the Los Angeles Dodgers] - I have also read up on some autograph forums and collecting blogs about collectors trying to collect as many autographs from their teams as possible.

While not quite an original idea, I'm looking to join the herd and start a team collection - I'm looking to add about 100 new Angels' autographs in 2009 with a goal of being able to count out at least 300 different by the end of the year.

Andy Hassler signed three cards I sent to him through the mail - he represents the first Angels' autograph I've gotten in 2009 and hopefully I can add 99 more.

My bread and butter is the uncertified in-person or through the mail autograph - though I'll probably be looking for certified autograph cards of Angels' players I've never gotten before or uncertified autograph cards of former Angels' players who have fallen through the cracks.

I guess the emphasis is on signed cards - but I'm open to picking up anything bearing an authentic, hand-signed autograph of an Angels' player.

A distinction I want to make is to separate signed cards - by players wearing an Angels' uniform and by players not wearing an Angels' uniform.

While it maybe nice in an ideal world, I don't think my goal is completion - but to build on a theme and at the very least, be able to say I have a certain number of autographs from my favorite Major League team.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Figuring it out in 2009 - collecting to blog

I'm a baseball card collector who has always liked cards - but collecting doesn't matter as much at times and it is hard to get into it or at least I feel inconsistent with my collecting habits. Where is the balance between liking what you collect, even if it is picking up commons at a card show or being able to talk shop about the latest cards?

I keep getting drawn back into collecting because I like the process of picking up cards, knowing it is my last link to adolescence - but in the 21st century, collecting is something I can blog about.

Collecting to blog is pretty important because it serves as a lifeline to share your interests with other like minded collectors - on the other hand, does the story get redundant trying to describe the ideal of being a collector and enjoying the process of your collecting endeavors? With so many things going on with new products and new players, it is hard to keep up with what everyone else is doing.

For the true collector in the real world - having a blog gives you currency over your typical Joe Collector. You know you can measure up [and then some] if you have your own blog. Any schmuck can post a YouTube video, but can anyone constantly rehash the same ideas, rants and thoughts over and over? Even if you aren't particularly creative about every post, it is still something that becomes a part the process involved with collecting.

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 Tristar Prospects Plus blaster box

2008 Tristar Prospects Plus blaster box [$19.99 each] - I was looking at the trading card section the second time [I was bored and spending time at Walmart is fun] and this blaster 'popped up.' The first time I was at thr trading card section, I only saw a blaster box of 2008 Tristar Projections High Series.

Because it is a minor league product - a typical baseball card collector are not going to go out of their way to look for this product. Still Tristar products have somewhat of a following with minor league autograph collectors and baseball card collectors looking for something different.

The card design isn't pretty and looks like a Fleer/Skybox design from the late 1990s - I don't think baseball cards should be boring, but they shouldn't look garish either, particularly for a 'niche' product like minor league cards.

As listed, each blaster box is guaranteed one autograph - five packs per blaster with six cards inside. Hopefully it didn't mean anything but basically the packs are crammed inside the box, with a crumbled up paper [I think similar to what you'd find stuffed in shoes at a shoe store] to support the blaster. It isn't like the packs are enclosed in a cardboard 'tray' inside like other blasters i.e. Topps/Bowman I've busted.

I got 29 out 150 base cards - with no doubles or triples.

Pack one - no suspense here, I already hit the auto
#26 Christian Friedrich - the No. 25 overall pick in 2008 [Colorado Rockies].
#14 Ethan Martin - the No. 15 overall pick in 2008 [Los Angeles Dodgers] and also possibly the year's Ben Christensen/Delmon Young Award winner.
#85 Jason Knapp

#FH JJ Jay Jackson - the 2008 Tristar Farmhands autograph inserts look better than last year's version.
#87 Boston Top Pick Pitchers; Bryan Price, Stephen Fife and Kyle Weiland - I think the multiplayer cards in this year's product is a distraction to collectors who probably want as many single cards to get signed either in the mail or in-person. If can get all the players' autographs at one time, then it is okay, but Tristar should have stuck with one player per card.
#149 Chicago Future Pitching Stars; James Leverton [Levitrol?], Justin Bristow and Toby Matchulat - it seems like these multiplayer cards are Tristar's way of getting more players in Prospects Plus.

Pack two
#4 Brian Matusz - the No. 4 overall pick in 2008 [Baltimore Orioles]
#36 Jake Odorizzi
#84 Rashun Dixon - the Oakland Athletics sees some value in this guy, so he must be good [as in better than your average toolsy athlete from high school that the organization has not typically drafted]. According to the back of his card, Dixon had eight home runs, 42 RBIs and a .525 slugging percentage in the Arizona League [rookie level]. He could be an intriguing speed/power guy if his Moneyball skills develop [having patience at the plate and taking walks].
#73 Tyler Ladendorf
#104 Ryan Lavarnway
#135 Staten Island Yankees Teammates; Ray Kruml and Addison Maruszak

Pack three
#41 Pete Hissey
#58 Dan Brewer
#49 Xavier Avery
#37 Brad Holt

#123 College Teammates; Yonder Alonzo and Jemile Weeks [Miami] - Alonzo was the No. 7 overall pick in 2008 [Cincinnati Reds] and Weeks was the No. 12 overall pick [Oakland Athletics].
#109 Mike Lee

Pack four
#95 Steven Fife

#92 Kyle Higashioka - local Orange County, California kid drafted by the New York Yankees
#23 Ryan Perry - the No. 21 overall pick [Detroit Tigers]
#6 Kyle Skipworth - the No. 6 overall pick in 2008 [Florida Marlins]
#141 Lowell Spinners Teammates; Lance McLain and Kyle Weiland
#103 David Adams

Pack five
#69 Tyson Ross
#52 Jaff Decker
#13 Aaron Hicks
- the No. 13 overall pick in 2008 [Minnesota Twins]
#21 Andrew Cashner - the No. 19 overall pick in 2008 [Chicago Cubs]
#148 Boston Future Stars; Bryan Peterson, Tyler Yockey and Jonathan Hee
#119 Matt LaPorta - seems like from playing the Milwaukee Brewers' system to being traded as part of the C.C. Sabathia trade to playing in the Futures Game and also being a member of the U.S. Olympic baseball team [and being beaned during competition in the Olympics], LaPorta has gone through a lot in 2008. He is 24 years old and as far as a top prospect is concerned, 2009 is probably his make or break year to see if he can stick in the Major Leagues for good.

I tried to scan these cards, but the foil used on the cards do not scan well - for images, go to the official Tristar Web site.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The star of the first day of the MLB Network - Don Larsen

Don Larsen signed my card [on the back] for $7 - he also responded to my letter asking about his off-season conditioning with a note of his own.

His 1956 World Series perfect game is the showcase of the MLB Network's first day broadcast - I was sort of worried I would not be able to get the MLB Network, much like I don't get the NFL Network [on Time Warner Cable]. However, that is not a case with the MLB Network and it is all explained here.

Hopefully the MLB Network will be able to satisfy all my hardball cravings 24/7, 12 months a year - I've always wondered why everything on ESPN, on the sports radio shows are focused on the NFL [in particulary] and other sports. Hopefully now, I've got a place to go to on the television that is all baseball, all the time.

Featured autograph: Garret Anderson

I really haven't blogged about anything autograph related, though I see myself as more of an autograph hound - rather than merely just a baseball card collector.

One of my ideas was to do a dayf style blog about autographs
- however, I feel like I wanted to focus on baseball cards more because I can talk about them freely. With autographs, you have questions coming up about authenticity and where you got the item, particularly if isn't a pack pulled autograph. Maybe for 2009, one of my goals is to showcase more of my autographs I've picked up through the mail and in-person [or at least talk about them more in general].

This autograph of the former Halos batting star - was acquired by mailing Anderson an 2008 spring training autograph request through the mail.

I watched an in-depth interview show by Fox Sports West [In Their Own Words], featuring GA - on the show [Nomar Garciaparra, Luis Gonzalez, Jeff Kent, Juan Pierre of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gary Matthews Jr. and Scot Shields of the Angels are other baseball subjects I remember], home town stars are interviewed by host Bill MacDonald to talk about their lives in a candid one-on-one way.

They reveal their personalities and talk about their careers [besides the usual locker-room speak cliches] - for Angels fans, 'GA' has come across as aloof and not someone you can snag an autograph from in-person [he's virtually automatic TTM however].

In the show, Anderson came across as a pretty humble, low-key guy without the ego of a 'me-first' athlete - or a guy whose been affected by much of the criticism he's endured for being lazy, not showing the right hustle, et al.

Here is a Cliff Notes version of what he spoke about:
1.) By his definition, he is gamer - citing guys who've tried to beg out the lineup one way or the other. For all the critics, GA said to check out his numbers - they speak for themselves.
2.) He can't change the way he plays the game - his body language isn't going to allow him to be like Darin Erstad. He isn't going to show much emotion, because he is going to disrespect the other team.
3.) At one point when he was younger, he didn't know how to play 162 games a year - his body language did show it. At times he said a veteran [Tony Phillips] would get on him for it.
4.) If you are in the media and expecting a sound byte - you've gotta get to know him or else you probably won't be getting it. He said the 'Page Two' guy [T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times] is one guy who gets it since Simers might talk to GA for 30 minutes without even having a purpose.
5.) On the 1995 Anaheim Angels, which collapsed after an 11-game lead - GA said it just wasn't a good enough team and he implied these days there is so much pitching depth available, compared to the 1995 team, where you had guys [filling in] and making [too many] spot starts [to be a serious contender], when the they faced teams like the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

Hopefully GA can continue his career - to build upon an opportunity to reach or get close to 3,000 hits before he decides to hang them up for good.

Featured card: 2007 Topps Heritage All-Star subset Brian Fuentes #494

The Angels have signed Brian Fuentes and it obviously gives the end of the bullpen a different look - with a decidedly different type of guy. To be honest, the typical Angels' fans are likely thinking Fuentes still isn't Troy Percival, but at least he isn't Frankie [who they've had enough of]. For the Angels, it is a shorter commitment with less money for a pitcher who would seem to be as good as former closer K-Rod was in 2008 [except for the number of saves]. Less money and less years probably allows like Jose Arredondo or Kevin Jepsen to step in at some point in their careers to make a play for the eventual closer's job.

As much as he is a departure from K-Rod - Angels fans are expecting this guy to be a hammer out of the bullpen and that may not be realistic.

Fuentes was a three-time all-star [2005, 2006 and 2007], but Fuentes also lost his job midway through the 2007 season - I still remember questions about his all-star credentials during the time he struggled that season and was demoted in the Colorado Rockies' bullpen. Hopefully it was just a bump in the road and he doesn't do something like implode [blows 10-12 saves/gives up 10-15 home runs] and/or miss the rest of the season doing something stupid.