Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yes, I'm Writing About Heritage Again

I was flipping through my binder, which needs to expand into three binders by the way (Braves/Orioles/Other), and I realized I only owned 3 cards from this year's Heritage release, and none of them Orioles. This. Had. To. Change. And so in my latest package from Just Commons, I got a start on an Orioles team set. 

I can't get enough of these cards, not the Orioles home uniforms, not the Orioles banner waving, not the staged poses, not even the beautiful blue sky.

First cards in the collection of Gausman, which can be expected as he only appeared in the majors starting in 2013. But J.J. Hardy? I guess I didn't see Hardy as someone who would be sticking around, but with a three year extension, appears I was wrong.

I like Heritage so much I couldn't stop at the major league release. I had to dip into the Heritage Minors set as well, picking up my first card of Tommy La Stella, Atlanta's likely second baseman going into next year. La Stella was 2nd on the team in average with runners in scoring position in 2014, second only to Jayson Heyward, per this article.

Christian Walker got some at bats in Septembers for the Orioles, after playing 95 games in AA Bowie and 44 games for AAA Norfolk. He hit a combined 26 homers in the minors and looks promising.

I've got my eye on some other cards from the Heritage Minors set, so those may show up here on the blog soon. La Stella also has a card in 2014 Update.

Something tells me I'm not done with the 2014 Heritage set yet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bowman Chrome Card Backs

In previous posts I've ranked Topps Heritage as my top base set for 2014, and with the season coming to a close, chances are slim that Heritage will be topped. If I had to rank card backs though, 2014 Bowman Chrome would best that list.

I admit that the Orioles playoff run has led me to favor them slightly in my recent pickups over my other wants, and I think it's understandable. A recent lot of Bowman Chrome from Just Commons reflects that tendency.

The away Orioles uniforms are my favorite in baseball right now, followed by the Braves alternate navy uniforms. So that's led me to go after some team sets for this memorable O's squad. Let's start with the guys that played in the playoffs.

And the guys I wish could have played against the Royals.

Now for those card backs I was referring to. Stats are nice, but graphics combined with stats are where it's at.

Maybe my favorite graphic on these card backs, the Spray Chart. Look at all those arrows for Chris Davis, showing all 53 of his HRs from 2013. Looks like the most went to right center.

Schoop, being a rookie, gets minor league organizational ranks, stats compared the average, and some 'insight', which is a random stat. So this card back would suggest that Schoop has some power despite batting near the bottom of the O's order this season.

And for Machado we see how he hit against left and right handers in 2013. Look at those averages up and in!

While I've been focusing on Orioles lately, I'm still picking up non-Orioles that fit in my Braves and player collections. Really excited to see what Alex Wood will do in 2015.

Freeman basically feasted on right handed pitching in 2013 based on the right graphic.

And my second favorite back behind the HR spray chart, the strikeout chart for Kershaw. Look at all those swinging strikeouts against the curve.

Very impressed with these card backs, and the fronts aren't bad either. This moves Bowman Chrome into 2nd on my 2014 set rankings. Here's the top 5...

1. Topps Heritage
2. Bowman Chrome
3. Gypsy Queen
4. Allen & Ginter
5. Topps Chrome

I moved Ginter above Topps Chrome after getting a lot of Ginter in recently.

NBA season starts tonight, coinciding with the potential World Series clinching game, and although the NBA kickoff may not excite too many of you out there in the baseball card realm, it's one of my favorite times of year. I am expecting the excitement to wear off fairly quick this year, as it looks like the Pacers will be mediocre this season. Good luck to whoever you're cheering for tonight, whether it be baseball or basketball!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hokie Hokie Hokie Hahn

Well, the early season enthusiasm around the Virginia Tech football program has cooled down considerably over the last few weeks, and particularly after the Hokies lost 30-6 to Miami on Thursday night. It was probably the most pathetic performance I've seen from the Hokies since I really started following the team closely when I started school there in 2004. And so in this post I'm not going to talk about former Hokie football players, but on an up-and-coming major league pitcher, Jesse Hahn.

Hahn pitched for the Hokies from 2008-2010, striking out 76 batters in 73 innings in his final season. Hahn's first season happened to line up with my senior year at Tech, when I realized I'd been missing out on some great baseball my first three years, and so I tried to cram as many games in as I could. So many great teams in the ACC year to year, and take a look at the All-Tournament team from 2008. Yonder Alonso, Jemile Weeks, Buster Posey, Matt Harvey. So what if the Hokies finished 6-24 in conference play that year.

The Rays took Hahn in the 6th round of the 2010 draft, and traded him to the Padres in January of this year.

Back in July my family took in a Braves game against the San Diego Padres. I was disappointed in the days leading up to the game, as I thought we were going to miss Hahn pitching by a day. Luckily the lineup was adjusted and we were treated to a pitching matchup of Jesse Hahn and Alex Wood. Wood didn't have his best game, but the Braves couldn't get anything going against Hahn, who gave up just 1 run and 3 hits in 6 solid innings.

All of this to explain why Jesse Hahn appears to show up randomly on my want list. These three are the first of his I've added to my collection, and sadly even though the first card is from 2010 and the Bowman are from 2013, they appear to be the same image with some photoshopping. Disappointing, but it looks promising for Hahn getting more cards in the future. I was hoping for Topps Update, but it didn't happen. Maybe next year's Topps release?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Slide Into It- Triple Play 97

I've always enjoyed sports video games. Any sport, I like them all. When my parents gave me a playstation when I was 10 or so, one of the first games I picked up was Triple Play 97.  To this day it still might be my favorite sports video game.

Tony Gwynn graced the cover, a 12 time all-star at that point in his career. 

Here's a video of the gameplay from Triple Play 97. I still don't think you can beat the simple gameplay. I enjoyed competing in the Home Run Derby mode with my dad, us each picking a team of sluggers from the time, among them Mark McGwire, Griffey, Albert Belle, Andres Galarraga, Sheffield, Sosa, Frank Thomas, etc... The fun part for us was you could move the batter around the batter's box, even while the pitch was on the way. So we were able to slide forward into the pitch while taking a power swing for even more power. Fun times!

I recently picked up MLB the Show 13 for Playstation 3 to get my baseball video game fix. My oh my how games have changed since the first baseball game on my original playstation.

While the graphics are obviously superb, the gameplay isn't all that different on the most basic modes. Maybe it's time to pull out the old playstation and play some home run derby. Slide into it! 

What are your favorite sports video games?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mini Christmas in October

Do you ever open a package or a pack of cards and feel like you're 10 years old again? Maybe that's every package or pack of cards for you, or maybe it happens every once in awhile. Sometimes I get caught up thinking about what I'm supposed to open versus what I could open, and that takes away from my enjoyment of this great hobby.

One of those throwback 10 year-old moments happened to me yesterday when I opened a package from Duane, who collects A&G minis and tracks his wantlists and trades on his blog, Democratic Roadkill.

It's going to take me awhile to return the favor after such an awesome package. It'll also take me several posts to cover what Duane sent. Despite the title of this post, I'll start with the full-size cards.

First up some masterpieces of Cal. The first is from 2008 Upper Deck while the last two are from 2007. Why put the 2008 card first, you ask? I misread the year on the 2008 card. I collected a number of masterpieces from the 2009-10 Upper Deck basketball insert set, and these look pretty similar in design. I've always thought these cards were underrated, and it was nice to see several of one of my favorite baseball players. Of the three, I prefer the 2008 Cal.

You all are familiar with the 2014 Ginter design I am sure, as well as the Pastime's Pastimes insert set. I am pleased to add a card of Orioles 2nd baseman Jonathan Schoop (pronounced 'Scope', if by chance you are unaware) to my collection. Adam Jones has a pastime of Philanthropist. The card back tells how Jones earned a key to the city for his work with Baltimore youth. Chris Davis spends his time at the gym.

Moving on to the great stack of cards from 2013 A&G. A few members of the 2014 AL East Champion Orioles. Wei-Yin Chen had a fine season going 16-6 with a 3.54 era. Although Chen was the losing pitcher in game 3 of the ALCS, can't fault his performance, giving up 2 runs in 5 innings. Could have used both of the other two guys in the lineup for sure.

Next up some Braves legends, including my first cards of Warren Spahn and Phil Niekro. In a trip to Turner Field over the summer, seeing statues of these three greats was a treat. My dad's also a big Spahn fan. 

And another all-timer along with two current Braves. It will be nice to see Medlen back in the rotation next season (one can hope!). Kimbrel was a treat to watch in 2014 and one of the bright spots for the Braves as they struggled post All-Star break. 

Rounding out the full-size cards for this post are a couple of Kershaws, one from 2012 and one from 2013, and a Grady Sizmore. My favorite out of the three is by far the 2013 Kershaw. I assume that is his dreaded curveball.

These minis from 2012 Topps, using the design from the 87 Topps set, might be my favorite group of cards from this post. Neat to see different Orioles logos used for the current and former players. Nice job on these, Topps!

These minis are new to me, Kimball champions from 2011 Topps Update. Zach Britton went 11-11 in 2011 as a starter, a pretty good record given his 4.61 era and that the Orioles only won 69 games that year. And we have Vlad Guerrero in his final season and only as an Oriole. I assume each card from this set has a checklist on the back as these two do. Now that I'm up to three (recently received the Markakis in a trade package as well), why not go for the whole Orioles team set?

More minis coming in a future post. Thank you Duane, what a treat to open this package from you!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Orioles Stack from the Commish

Within a few days of starting by blog back in August, Bob from The Five Tool Collector was the first to welcome me to the blogosphere. I enjoy reading Bob's daily posts on the Orioles and the impressive collection he's built. The other day I received a package from Bob and I knew it would be filled with some neat Orioles, and I was right.

Eddie Murray, one of my favorite all-time Orioles, made up the majority of the package, which I was thrilled about since I have very few Murray cards in my collection. All of these are great Topps designs. Hard to pick a favorite as there are parts of each card that I like. I think the 85 Topps design on the right is my favorite, mainly because I can't see enough of that Orioles logo.

Here we have Murray cards from 1982 Fleer and Topps. I'd say the Topps card wins this battle. Appreciate seeing an action shot of Murray at the plate. First thing I noticed about the Fleer card was the difference in surface texture from the Topps cards I received. Basically all of these cards reinforce Murray's nickname, Steady Eddie, as all of them are solid.

Up next, a few cards of Oriole great Brooks Robinson. Interesting fact I didn't know about Brooks until recently, he's a natural left-hander but threw and batted righty. Being left handed myself I should take offense to this, but who am I to argue with 16 gold gloves, 18 all-star appearances, 2 world series championships, MVP awards of all kinds (World Series, Regular Season, All-Star), and Hall of Fame Membership?

Both of these Topps designs are great. What I'm getting at is I don't have a bad thing to say about any of the older Topps designs. I can't get enough of any year. Which means I will probably end up adding some of the 70s and 80s Orioles and Braves team sets to my wantlist. Really like the color from the 1976 version.

Finishing out the package, we've got an early Cal card and an Opening Day Andruw Jones, both cards new to me. 

Great stuff, Bob. Thanks again for the welcome and for the stack of cards! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pulled Over for Too Fast a Fastball

Was going through a stack of Braves when I found this card from 1996 Score of one of my favorite Braves relievers, Mark Wohlers. As with any Braves player who moved through the minor league system, I must mention his time in Richmond from 1991-93. He pitched for 24 saves over those seasons, making 75 appearances. In 91 he had an ERA of 1.03 in 23 appearances and in 93 an ERA of 1.84 in 25 appearances.

This card looks like it wants to be a die-cut, if you notice the edge of the photo, next to the name on the right side. A radar rating is the perfect subset for Wohlers, who has the 3rd fastest recorded pitch in baseball history at 103 mph.

Look at that hair! No surprise that one of the common search terms on google under 'm' for Wohlers is 'Mark Wohlers mullet'. Also 'meltdown', but we'll ignore that one.

Wohlers spent several years as a set-up man for the Braves until 1995, when he became the closer. He has 119 saves for his career, including 39 in his only All-Star season in 1996.

Additionally Wohlers appeared on a Saturday Night Live episode in 1997 with 13 other MLB players for a skit called 'Baseball Dreams'. If anyone can find a video of this, I would love to watch it. Helen Hunt hosted the episode and Hanson was the musical guest, singing 'MMMBop'.