Wednesday, April 29, 2009

About the Loot

Since I promised more about the cards I found - here it is:


CBR-BM - Brian McCann Game Used Bat

Gold Parallels:

#308 - Chris Duncan (1551/2009)
#299 - Hamels World Series MVP (1463/2009)
#125 - Roy Oswalt (1192/2009)
#105 - Francisco Liriano (1889/2009)
#34 - Brandon Inge (1910/2009)

Black Parallel:
#16 - Brian Stokes (55/58)

Legends of the Game:
LG22 - Thurman Munson
LG18 - Roger Maris
LG15 - Pee Wee Reese
LG14 - Johnny Mize
LG6 - Tris Speaker
LG2 - Honus Wagner

Ring of Honor:
RH27 - Kevin Mitchell
RH25 - Lou Piniella
RH23 - Mariano Rivera
RH21 - Johnny Podres
RH19 - Pedro Martinez
RH17 - Gary Sheffield

Turkey Red:
TR46 - Josh Johnson
TR40 - Kosuke Fukudome
TR37 - Kevin Kouzmanoff
TR36 - Jacoby Ellsbury
TR20 - George Sisler
TR19 - Brian McCann
TR17 - Conor Jackson
TR16 - Joe Mauer
TR3 - Jimmy Foxx

Right off the bat, I know that since I'm not a Braves or Brian McCann fan, I have no use for the relic card. Hopefully someone out there needs one and would like to make a trade. I've got the base set sorted out, but I need to make a list of the cards I need.

Topps 2009 Series 1

I finally had some time to upload the pictures I took of the hobby box I recently opened. I hope to throw up some stats on the cards I pulled from the box later on this week.

I wasn't totally thrilled with the McCann relic card, and I'm hoping I can trade it off for either something more interesting or cards to complete the series 1 base set.

I was disappointed on the Brewers front. I didn't score a Hardy, Fielder, Weeks, Hart or Braun card. I'm unsure if they're all in Series 1, but I suspect at least a few were. The Alcides Escobar and Mike Cameron cards I found were dinged on the corners, so I'll have to see how to go about getting those (as well as the 6 or so other cards) replaced by Topps.

This was the completed madness from late last week. I've got a couple of thoughts from the insert sets.

I'm not really that interested in, or intrigued by the Turkey Red insert cards. I'm hoping to trade all these off. Just not my thing I guess.

I did dig the Legends of the Game inserts as well as the Ring of Honor cards and might look to trade to finish off those inserts after taking care of the base set.

One thing I did notice is that I don't think I got a single duplicate card in the entire box. I'm amazed by this, but again I haven't been collecting since the early 90s.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Week 4 of the HBL

April will draw to a close and we'll have 1/6 of the HBL season in the books after this week. Taking a look back, it was a rough month. Nearly everything that could have gone wrong did, and I'm not just saying that.

Looking back at our goals for our players this year, we had but a few:

1. Get breakout seasons from Rickie Weeks and Alex Gordon
2. Look for BJ Upton to return to form and be that 30/30 guy we need
3. Watch Vlad and Beltran lead our team to glory
4. Allow our pitching to dominate and lead the way with Verlander and Liriano

And what actually happened?

Rickie Weeks has been okay, but the steals are almost non-existant. Alex Gordon was kicked off our team after yet another 3 month injury. BJ Upton has been terrible, batting something like .155 at the plate. Vlad got hurt, Beltran forgot how to steal bases (I think he's been caught every time this year). And our pitching, wow, what a nightmare.

Liriano and Verlander were the opposite of aces. We were getting performances out of them that make me thankful that our ERA is almost under 5 again. Sure, we lead the league in strikeouts, and we're near the top in saves thanks to Heath Bell, but our staff is a mess.

The big quandry heading into week 4 was "Do we start Justin Verlander for his two start week?". We were already sitting Liriano and I told Forbes "it's just too hard on the psyche to be sitting both of those guys." Forbes made the decision for us, Verlander needed to start and do battle with CC Sabathia - and battle he did!

I'm not totally back on board with Mr. Zoolander, but his 9K performance and dominating curveball against the Yankees made me somewhat of a believer. He was running that gas up near 100mph all night last night. Let's see what his second start of the week brings before we proclaim him "back".

In other news, I failed in my quest to land Joe Mauer. Once our catcher, Ryan Doumit hit the DL with a broken right wrist I actually felt less inclined to deal for Joe. The goal was to land Mauer and possibly spin Doumit off to someone else for an upgrade at another position. The price got a bit steep for me when Colby Rasmus + someone was the asking price. So I bailed. Kurt Suzuki is now our temporary fill-in at catcher for the next couple of months and I'm mostly okay with that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April HBL Meeting

Forbes and I have agreed to meet monthly to discuss 'the situation' with our beloved Golden Valley 55ers. What came of our April meeting is that we decided there aren't any useful pitchers available as Free Agents and that we should probably sign Kevin Kouzmanoff while he's still available. So, goodbye Taylor Teagarden, and hello Kouz. I'm happy about this signing and feel like we're buying low on the 27 year old. He plays in a big park, but he put up big slugging numbers last year even if they don't show up in his HR totals. Since we use total bases instead of HRs in our 5x5 mixed league it works beautifully for us. I'm still putting behind the terribleness that was/is our 3b situation of Alex Gordon, Melvin Mora, and Chris Davis. I'm still praying for Davis every night.

I also ripped open a few more packs from my box of 2009 Topps Series 1 last night. I'm now two-thirds of the way through it. The highlights from last night were gold parallels of Roy Oswalt and Francisco Liriano, a Gary Sheffield Ring of Honor (from his '97 Marlins team), and 3 Legends of the Game cards ft. Thurman Munson, Tris Speaker, and Honus Wagner. Saying Thurman Munson "retired" in 1979 was definitely one way to put it, although that did lead me to read his Wikipedia page today.

I'll probably open a few more of the remaining 12 packs tonight, and hope to see what I'm missing by the end of the week.

Monday, April 20, 2009

2009 Topps Series 1 Hobby Box

I decided over the weekend that I'd put together a set of Topps this summer.

I did really like the style of the Upper Deck cards, both the First Edition and the Series 1 cards, but in the end, the lack of stats and information on the back of the cards steered me away from those sets.

If anyone needs/wants the cards I got in those two Upper Deck packs I'd gladly give those away to a good home.

Sunday afternoon I started my quest to find a hobby shop that sells cards. This was surprisingly harder than I imagined. I called approximately 4 stores, all of which were out of business. I finally located a shop by the name of Three Star Sports Cards over in Roseville. I swooped in right around closing time, 4PM, on Sunday and grabbed a hobby box of Series 1 Topps.

My goal is to collect the entire set from this one box, and utilize trades with the online community to get the remaining cards I need.

I'll post some pictures later on today, but I went through 12 of the 36 packs last night. The highlights were a Brian McCann Career Best relic card (part of his bat), a few gold parallels (Cole Hamels WS MVP, Brandon Inge, and other other that's escaping me thus far), one black parallel of a Mets pitcher I'm unfamiliar with and cannot recall his name, as well as a few Turkey Red cards, a Pee Wee Reese Legends of the Game, and a WBC redemption card.

I immediately went out to the Topps redemption site, and was informed I'll be getting my WBC card sometime in the next 30 weeks. Unfortunately, they don't tell you which card you've "won". I guess I'll let everyone know in November.

In those 12 packs I've only unearthed three Brewers: Alcides Escobar (dinged corner and all), Angel Salome, and Dave Bush. I'm looking forward to more Brewery goodness tonight.

I've found a couple misprints thus far as well, but I'm sure they are uncorrected errors. The first one I noticed is on the back of Dave Roberts card, it says he lead MLB in stolen bases from 02-07 with 266. However, he hasn't even posted 266 steals in his career yet, and the card should have read 226.

The second misprint I found was on the back of the Phillies/Dodgers divisional series card depicting Fat Stairs. It shows the pitchers as Garza (1-0) and Lester (0-1) - clearly from the ALCS.

Week 3 of the HBL

Week 3 is about to begin and I've been inquiring to see if any owners will deal a 3b before I promote the struggling Chris Davis.

The thing that bothers me about Davis is that he's hitting in the 6 or 7-hole for Texas AND he's struggling. That doesn't scream 'useful' to me, but we're basically out of options. I quickly kicked the tires on Chipper Jones, but I have a feeling I'd be back in the same situation in 2 or 3 weeks, so it's probably not worth it.

Also to note, CBS says that BJ Upton is questionable for the Seattle series, but likely will only miss 1 game this week. How much do you want to bet he misses at least a series and possibly a month or something insane like that? It's been that kind of a start to the year for our squad.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Alex Gordon Must Die

Okay, that's a little harsh, but it's almost true. Forbes and I came to a unanimous decision via texting that Alex Gordon is no longer welcome on our fantasy baseball team. We're clearing room to promote the struggling Chris Davis. With the entire team struggling outside of Ryan Howard and Ryan Doumit, we'll just sit back and see how things go for a while.

One of the lone bright spots thus far has been Heath Bell's 7 saves in 2 weeks. We sat him Week 2 in favor of struggling Mike Gonzalez, which just goes to show you can't guess right on saves. I think from this point on we'll stay with Coco Cordero and Heath Bell for the time being, while hoping our new pickup, Scott Downs, eventually steals the saver title from B.J. Ryan in Toronto.

Our Week 3 lineup looks like this:

Doumit, Howard, Weeks, Tulowitzki, Davis, BJ Upton, Beltran, Hart, and Jacobs at DH.
Liriano, Verlander, Myers, Volstad, Cordero, Bell and this weeks #7 pitcher, Jonathan O. Sanchez. Yup, that's just how fickle I am about the guy. 5 days ago I was trying to give him away and now I'm throwing him back into the lineup after a decent performance this week.

If Kent's axiom of bad one week, great the next and vice versa holds true we'll contine to start Sanchez only for his terrible starts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Alex Gordon Continually Lets Me Down

I need to quickly get my thoughts down about the Golden Valley 55ers, the fantasy baseball team I run with Mike Forbes.

A quick recap from Week 1 goes like this: Our pitching got shelled. Delmon Young didn't play much, Alex Gordon got hurt.

We've been running this Alex Gordon/Melvin Mora thing at 3b ever since we opted against promoting Chris Davis from our minor league team prior to our auction. The thought process was that if Alex Gordon could bust out, we could sit on Davis until we needed a DH, or even longer if we didn't need him at all this year. He becomes a 1B next year unless he miraculously plays 10 games at 3B this year (Michael Young slid over there with Blalock DHing).

Alex Gordon got hurt at the end of Week 1. I was upset, because Alex Gordon continually lets me down, but figured we had Mora who was tearing the cover off the ball during Week 1 on our bench. I slide Mora in only to find out that he's got some sort of hamstring probelm, so we're playing a man down all week - which I hate.

Anyway, it looked like we'd have Gordon back for Week 3, and we'd promote Davis to play DH since the Twins can't find a way to find playing time for their 23 year old power-hitting prospect. You know, the same one they traded their best pitching prospect, Matt Garza, for just a year ago. And the same guy who hit 21 HRs when he was 21 years old, and who hit 14 last year, while batting in the neighborhood of .300. But yes, keep playing Carlos Gomez Gardy.

So now I find out Alex Gordon has a hip tear and also find out that Vlad is headed back to Los Angeles of Anaheim to see the doctor because of this strained pectoral that was keeping him only at DH (fine with me!). To recap, our bench is a MASH unit: Kaz Matsui (always something), Gordon (Hip), Mora (Hamstring), Vlad (Pec), Delmon Young (Pride), and Taylor Teagarden doesn't play.

What to do? Well it was between Mike Jacobs, the 1B from Kansas City or Kevin Kouzmanoff, the 3B from San Diego. I flipped a coin (beacuse none of this is important enough to bother my co-owner with) and it came up Jacobs. So the bid is in, and Mora is on waivers. He'll likely not be back.

We're going to end up having to waive Randy Johnson, who I don't want to waive, just to clear room to get Davis up, who isn't even playing that well. Plus, I'm clearing more room to pick up Scott Downs who may or may not close for the Blue Jays. This is solely as a trading chip, but someone has to go to make room and that guy will likely be Micah Owings.

Side note from the week. I was unable to trade Jonathan O. Sanchez for even a 2nd round minor league pick, so we'll hold him for now, even though I don't think I have the strength to play him.


No Brewers. No Twins.

I had pretty much assumed I wouldn't be lucky enough to land a card of a player I really liked in my first pack of the ott-nine season.

I decided to venture down to the local Target store in Eagan over lunch to pick up a pack of baseball cards. I was feeling somewhat nostalgic today, and it seemed to fit with the weather and time of year, so I went for it.

My original plan included grabbing both a pack of Topps and Upper Deck 2009 cards to do a little comparison and see which one I'd collect this year. In the past, I'd just go for the Topps outright, but I did a little googling this morning and saw some fan-boy posts discussing the merits of each brand. This was the point where I decided I'd collect an entire set of cards for the first time in something like 20 years, while at the same time write about the experience. I also need a place to vent and record my thought process behind my fantasy baseball team that I co-own with a good friend from high school, so I'll do that here as well. I digress.

When I arrived at the adolescent trading card aisle at Target (I really hate how it's merchandised) I stood for a moment looking for the 2009 packs. I quickly realized the 2009 Topps Series 1 packs were gone. I can't say I was extremely broken up, or anything like that, but I did want to do a comparison so I'll likely stop off somewhere else on the way home. I did manage to snag a pack of the 2009 Upper Deck First Edition cards for only $1. As I understand it, the 'First Edition' brand name is their affordable trading card brand. There's a lot to relearn after barely dabbling in buying packs off and on over the past 15 years. I also contemplated grabbing a pack of both the Series 1 and Series 2 2008 Topps cards since they were still sitting on the shelf, but decided against it.

Eventually I vetured back to TR headquarters and brought the pack back to my desk to sit down and open it. Back to where I started: No Brewers. No Twins. 20 years ago I'd just have thought "No Brewers", but I've grown somewhat fond of the Twins since I moved up here. At least the Brewers and Twins share a common enemy. Twins hate the White Sox and when the Brewers were in the AL there was no better team to hate than the pale hosers from Chicago. I spend much of my summer now hating the Cubs. Anyway, the first card/player to greet me (and I'll ignore that I saw John Maine's card on the bottom when I opened the pack) was Bobby Jenks. Go figure, White Sox.

Bobby is a quality "saver" (the term closer is antiquated) for the Chicago White Sox. He's posted 117 saves for the White Sox since 2005. He's on an opposing fantasy baseball team, so I hate him for that reason as well. It's hard to hate his card though. Rather than an action shot it's a picture of him holding up a home-made cardboard sign that says "Gracias".

I'm just noticing now that when the pack of cards was sealed, whatever machine they use leaves a pretty big imprint (two lines) on the cards in the back of the pack. The quality isn't that super glossy stuff that I remember from the vintage 89 Upper Deck, but more like the 1990 Pro Set football cards (I'm doing this totally from memory, but I'm pretty sure I'm right). Not super high quality, but there's no pretentious foil like the Topps cards have been using for years. I'm guessing the proper Upper Deck set still features the high gloss cards.

Anyway, onto card number two. It's Josh Beckett. I like Josh Beckett quite a bit. I grew fond of him when he was with the underdog Marlins and knocked off the Yankees in the World Series. Now he's just another blip on the 'famous athletes that play for Boston teams' radar. This is a landscape oriented card. I think I just used work-speak there, sideways is how I'd have described it 20 years ago. Let's go with that, a sideways card. It's an action shot of Josh just getting ready to unleash a 2-seamer to the plate. Not a bad card.

Max Scherzer is up next. He's a thrower from the Diamondbacks. The kid has a great arm, but I'm not totally convinced he'll be a great pitcher when all is said and done. He's pictured with his knee up near his chest, front teeth locked down on his bottom lip. He looks every bit the part of a guy who harnesses all his strength and energy to put the ball out there near 100mph.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, a third baseman from the Padres, is fielding a ground ball and looking across the diamond ready to cut someone down at first base. He's sporting the very cool grey road jersey and a set of Oakley's. It's a nice shot. I'll talk more about Kouz on the fantasy baseball side of things in my next post. I will reiterate how much I love the Padres logo though.

Brian Wilson has a soul patch and a tattoo around his right wrist. I'm amazed by both of these things, although he is a saver, so I guess you do need some amount of attitude out there. I'm amazed because I had him on my fantasy baseball team for the better part of a year and I don't think I ever knew what he looked like. Wilson is a young guy and threw up 41 saves from someone else's team last year after I dealt him. One of the main reasons I want to cover my fantasy team here too is so I can remember things like "Who did I trade Brian Wilson for?" God, I hope it wasn't Ian Kennedy, pretty sure it was though. For the record, Brian's pose is a bit after where Scherzer was in his delivery. Standard action shot.

Howie Kendrick Appears to be turning two in his photo. Aki Iwamura is sliding in to break it up, but Kendrick appears to be handling it with relative ease and looking good in his red-rimmed sunglasses while doing so. I've got an ongoing bet with a friend that Kendrick will eventually have a 20 homer season. He has 12 in the 3 years he's played thus far, none of which have been full seasons. He can definitely hit though, maybe just not for power. Yeah, the back of his card is trying to convince me of this: "Kendrick has provided the Angels with another source for base knocks . . . "

The next card is a Jose Reyes Starquest card. I started to get out of the hobbyright about the time insert cards were getting big. I'm making a note to look at why these cards are special, and a separate note to look for a checklist for this set. I'm curious how many cards are in the First Edition set. I'm banking on 300, since my highest numbered card is 299.

#299, Ryan Zimmerman. He's in the red DC uniform looking primed for a bunt attempt or hot shot coming his way from someone. I don't have much to say about Zimm, or his card. I'm just thankful the Nationals took him in the draft in 2005? 2006? These cards don't have much in the way of history printed on the back either. Another drawback for me.

Jorge Posada is the second to last card in the pack, and the last card I didn't see immediately upon opening. Jorge is getting read to return the ball back to the pitcher or possibly a pre-inning toss down to second base. Mask still on, so there's no sense of urgency here. Jorge is getting pretty long in the tooth and can't have that much quality baseball left in him. 221 HRs through last season and 1,379 hits. Hmmmm, it says 14-YR TOTALS on the back but only lists 10 years. Feeling a bit let down again. I guess 10 years is the space limit for First Edition.

Last, but not least, John Maine. Another sideways card. I've never much cared for Maine, but he appears to have developed into a decent pitcher in the past two years for the Mets. Looks like he missed some time last season, going from 191IP in 0tt-seven to 140IP in ott-eight.

Well this concludes my pack, to recap:
#77 - Bobby Jenks
#39 - Josh Beckett
#10 - Max Scherzer
#245 - Kevin Kouzmanoff
#250 - Brian Wilson
#143 - Howie Kendrick
SQ-15 - Jose Reyes
#299 - Ryan Zimmerman
#207 - Jorge Posada
#194 - John Maine

I'm undecided as far as continuing this set. The pros are simple design and decent price, and the cons are watered down info and stats (which is what I live for) on the back of the cards.

Hello World!

I always wanted to do that.