Friday, April 17, 2009


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.

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