Tuesday, January 20, 2015

High Heritage

Before this season I didn't know that Topps releases an Update set for Heritage, called Heritage High Number. This year's High Number set is 100 cards, and each set purchased comes with an on-card autograph. Of course being a Heritage lover, particularly of this year's set, I was pleased to see that this product exists. While I didn't purchase an entire set, I did pick up a handful of cards.

Obviously I had to add a group of Orioles from the set. Schoop I've talked about several times already on this blog. Excited to see how he develops.

Steve Pearce had by far the best season of his career in 2014, proving to be a steady contributor on a team that had gaps throughout due to injury. Pearce, capable of playing multiple positions, ended up playing a career high 102 games, hitting 21 home runs while hitting .293. Glad to pick up my first card of this guy.

Zach Britton pitched in 71 games for the Orioles in 2014, notching 37 saves while keeping a 1.65 era. He struck out 62 batters compared to 23 walks. What a nice transition from starter to closer. Another case of adding my first card of a player to my collection.

Here's the back of the Schoop card. I appreciate how the back combines minor and major league stats.

Here's the likely Braves starter at catcher on opening day, Christian Bethancourt. Even though Evan Gattis was likely to move to left field, trading him confirmed what we already knew, that Bethancourt is going to get consistent playing time to start the 2015 season. Bethancourt looks the part of Braves catcher of the future, but it will take some time for him to get polished. I would think getting regular playing time will only help there.

Mookie Betts made the jump to Boston in 2014 to complete his quick rise to the majors. He played in 52 games for the Red Sox, batting a very solid .291 with 5 home runs and 18 runs batted in. Betts will get regular playing time in 2015, and it's amazing how far he has come in such a short time since I saw him play for the Greenville Drive in 2013. Excited to see how he will perform in 2015. This guy is only 22 years old.

And I'll finish this post up with a Virginia Tech Hokie, Jesse Hahn. I was thrilled to see Hahn show up in the set. He looked to be in a pretty good position with the Padres, where he was likely to get regular starts in 2015. The Padres traded Hahn to the Oakland A's in December. We'll see if he can find a spot in the A's pretty solid rotation. So glad Topps included Hahn in this set since he was left out of Topps Update. 

Did you know that Hahn played basketball in high school too? Makes me even more of a fan.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Finest Additions

When 2014 Finest first came out and started appearing on blogs, I wanted to run out and pick these up. I showed some restraint, though, and waited until I had enough on my Just Commons order so I could get free shipping. And so several months after everyone else it seems, I've got a few singles from the set to add to my collection. Considering how beautiful these cards are, I'd say it was worth the wait.

We'll start off with the National League MVP. Several reasons why I like this guy, in addition to the obvious, that he is a dominant pitcher: he's left handed, gotta support the lefties. And he's 6'3", same height as me. He also seems to be a pretty level headed guy. As for my collection, this card makes Kershaw  number 14.

Freddie Freeman will be carrying the offensive load for the Braves for the next few seasons, it appears, after the Braves have now traded three of the team's best hitters this offseason. You can include Evan Gattis in that list as of Wednesday.

I think my favorite is the Machado, ready to fire off a throw to first or second, I am thinking. I'm trying to be positive about his injury problems. Maybe he will be able to move on from these and have a full season. All reports say he's feeling good.

2014 Finest ranks third of my sets of the year, behind Heritage and Stadium Club. I'd love to bust some packs of this stuff but I'll refrain with it being a hobby only release, and settle for adding these three to my player collections. Eventually I'll go after some of the parallels as they are too good looking not to.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crime Dog Stacks

As you may know, I chose a Fred McGriff mini as my #WalletCard, and while I'll share a number of posts on what the Crime Dog is up to, I wanted to share some recent McGriff additions to my collection.

While I prefer to see McGriff in a Braves uniform, I'm not going to exclude pre and post-Brave cards from my collection, especially when they are sweet minis like these from 1989 Topps. The first above and last below (oops), is his Mini Leaders card.

Just looking at Fred's stats from his years in Toronto, it's amazing that he didn't make an All-Star team in any of his last three seasons there, considering he hit over 30 home runs and his lowest season batting average was .269. In 1989 he even finished 6th in MVP voting for the AL. I guess it makes more sense when you look at who was at first base for the American League that year, Mark McGwire and Don Mattingly. Luckily his All-Star seasons were coming in San Diego, Atlanta, and even Tampa Bay.

The second mini is from 1989 Topps UK minis, and I really like the design on this one. Wouldn't mind seeing a modern set designed off of this. If this has been done and I've missed it, somebody tell me!

We're hitting almost everywhere the Crime Dog played in the post, as we start off with a Padres card from 1992 Donruss, of the McDonald's MVP variety. McGriff is one of 26 that make up this checklist. Cal Ripken Jr. also has a card in this set, which I'm now adding to my wantlist. I'm finding that acquiring cards like these is becoming one of my favorite parts of collecting. The back of this card is pretty sharp, too.

I was pleased to see McGriff show up on the 2014 A&G checklist, too.

Now that I've gotten started here with McGriff I just don't want to stop, so I'll hit some of his later other career stops.

In 2001 Fred was coming off an All-Star appearance in 2000. He was traded mid-season to the Cubs. Here we have a gold parallel from 2001 Topps that shows Fred's signature swing. 

In 2001 at 37 years old, McGriff combined for 31 homers and 102 runs batted in while hitting .306. This is my only McGriff relic, from 2001 Topps Traded & Rookies 

Part of what inspired this post was seeing some discussion on McGriff's Hall of Fame credentials. For now, he'll continue to Await the Call. 

And now that I'm over 10 cards of McGriff in hand, I think I can call it a player collection.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Better Late Than Never- to the Stadium Club Party

We all have changes we would make to the card industry if we were in charge. Make fewer sets, make less expensive products, make larger sets, put out more on-card autographs and get rid of stickers, these are a few things I wouldn't mind seeing. For all the things I'd like to change, there are several sets a year that card companies knock out of the park. Heritage for example. Come on, you knew that was coming. Even if it's hobby-only, Stadium Club is another one of those sets.

First the non-Orioles. Love this Freeman card with the team celebrating... a walk off hit, perhaps? With some other Braves stars being traded, I'm so glad Freeman is the one sticking around.

The best pitcher in the game, or that's what I'll argue, at least. 

Good luck on the Mariners, Nelson. They can certainly use the bat!

I've seen this one posted on several blogs, has to be one of the best photos in the set.

With losses of some outfield bats, the O's need Chris Davis to have a bounceback 2015.

Looking forward to seeing how Schoop develops over the next several years. Surely he can improve on his .209 batting average from 2014.

And this guy can't get back on the diamond soon enough. Need a big season from Manny to make up for some of the roster changes going into 2015. Hopefully he's back for opening day!

This is the real Iron Man, not some guy in a metal suit.

I'm close to an Orioles team set, only missing #83 Brooks Robinson and #177 Eddie Murray.

Stadium Club finishes 2nd in my 2014 set rankings, just behind 2014 Topps Heritage and in front of 2014 Finest. The card backs on Stadium Club aren't that exciting to me, but the photography is good enough to carry it to the 2nd spot.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ultra Exciting

One of my goals for 2015 is to keep track of cards in my player collections. Adding onto this I want to keep up with any sets I am trying to complete. The first of such sets is 1999 Ultra. The Ultra brand has always been a favorite of mine. One of my best memories of sports cards is opening packs of 1994-95 Ultra basketball with my dad. What a great set that was. I wanted to put together an Ultra baseball team set together, and I'm quite fond of the 1999 design. I'm keeping track of what I have on my What I Collect page. Let's go through some Orioles and Braves from the 1998 season!

First up, Brady Anderson, a three-time All-Star. How did you hit 50 home runs and knock in 110 runs in 1996? And only 11.6 at-bats per home run. Anderson struggled in 1998 hitting just .236 but had a bounce back year in 1999.

Great card of Mike Mussina. I can't decide what I like better from this set, the text used for the player names or the photography. 

I appreciate the card backs showing stats for the player's entire career. The Did You Know? facts are pretty interesting too. Mussina played multiple positions on his high school football team and was offered a scholarship to kick at Penn State. I'm guessing not too many major league pitchers can dominate like Mussina on the diamond and also kick a 60-yard field goal. The card says '60-year field goal'. Guess that one slipped past editing. Still love the card!

Sadly this Graf isn't in the best shape on the surface. If I find another copy of this one I won't mind replacing it. Graffanino came up in the Braves system playing three years for the major league team before being released in 1999. He played several infield positions and was a good contact guy.

Michael Tucker came to the Braves in a trade before the 1997 season along with Keith Lockhart for Jermaine Dye and Jamie Walker. I was sad to see the 23 year old Dye go to the Royals after seeing him in Richmond the year before. Back to Tucker... he spent 2 years with the Braves before being traded to the Reds along with our next Brave...

Denny Neagle. I always enjoy seeing shots of players signing for fans, and I enjoyed watching Neagle while with the Braves. He had one incredible All-Star season for Atlanta in 1997, going 20-5 with a 2.97 era, finishing 3rd in Cy Young voting.

And a nice shot of the Big Cat making contact. The photography in this set is pretty great. I'd argue it's the strongest photo of the group. What a season he had for the Braves in 1998, hitting 44 home runs and batting in 121 runs. He missed all of 1999 battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and came back with a strong 2000 season, winning Comeback Player of the Year. While he was only with the Braves for a few seasons, the Big Cat is one of my favorites.

And while he's pictured in a Devil Rays uniform, I couldn't pass up picking up this Fred McGriff. I am certainly not going to limit my Crime Dog collection to Brave uniforms only. I know I'm not alone in thinking McGriff should get consideration for the Hall of Fame. Sadly it doesn't look like it will happen based on his recent percentage of votes.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Card Stacks Goals for 2015

Last Thursday was the first New Year for the blog, so I do not have goals to recap from 2014, but I will throw out some goals for 2015 so that I can see the progress I will have made on my collection in the coming year. Blog-wise, I haven't written nearly as much as I'd have liked, but I've accepted that the consistency in writing everyday will be there sometimes, and other times it won't. I am excited to see what the new year will bring, so let's throw out some goals. I'm a data guy, so putting numbers down where they make sense is important for me.

1) Document the cards I already have in my baseball player collections

It's hard to trade with folks when you can't provide specific want/have lists. This is particularly crucial for some of my larger player collections, such as the one for Ryan Klesko that likely includes 100+ cards. I'm also making it a point to add cards to my lists right when they come in, rather than adding them to the binder and going in after the fact to try to figure out what I have and haven't already added. Hmm, a number, I'll say I will try to document 100% of all 13 guys on my What I Collect page. This shouldn't be too bad in most cases as the collections are fairly small at this point.

Document your player collections or feel the wrath of nunchuck Klesko.

2) Sort the cards I have available for trade by team

While I'm documenting my player collections, why not go ahead and get the rest of my collection organized? I've got a bunch of cards from the 90s that I need to organize so I can get them ready to send to other collectors who will enjoy them more than I do, with them just sitting in a box in our bonus room. For the metric part of this, I will add a page to the blog for trade bait with the notable cards for all 30 teams.

3) Send out at least 20 packages/envelopes to fellow bloggers

I've done a poor job of reaching out to other bloggers, getting addresses and then getting those cards shipped out. The time I've been able to spend on the hobby recently has been focused on trying to establish the blog. In 2015 I would like to put an emphasis on helping others with their collections while also keeping my collection at a manageable size. 20 packages comes out to alternating between 1 and 2 packages a month. This seems doable for me, and hopefully I'll exceed this one easily. I've got several stacks of cards waiting to be sent out, but I've yet to get addresses, etc... Time to put more of a focus on this.

These seem like reasonable goals. I could add some others but I want to keep it simple this time and start by getting my collection organized. Glad to be here and thanks for reading and commenting. See you around the blogosphere!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Crime Dog in my Wallet

I'm sure you are all aware of the Wallet Card wave going on in the card blogosphere, and this is me jumping in. 

When I saw the idea, I knew I wanted to participate, but I also remembered I had recently purchased a smaller wallet that won't hold a normal sized card. This meant I was looking for a mini-card, which limits the pool from my collection. 

For the player, it didn't take me long to decide that I wanted to carry a card of Fred McGriff around with me in my wallet. I can't think of a player more fitting than the Crime Dog. Snooping around in my wallet? Crime Dog appears!

This is the card I was originally going with. It's got McGriff's signature post-swing and he's in a Braves uniform. But it's not a mini.

After some searching, I decided to go with this recent McGriff!

This one will do just fine, a 2014 Topps 89 Mini die-cut. What will the Crime Dog get into in 2015? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmas Breaks, Basketball Edition

I shared some of the highlights from baseball packs in my Christmas stocking yesterday. While my main focus is baseball cards these days, I have a pretty solid basketball card collection as well. My favorite team to collect is the Indiana Pacers, and I have a good player collection of Tim Duncan. My wife, knowing this, included some basketball packs in my stocking as well. So I busted a few packs of 2014-15 Prestige and Prizm.

These are the base cards from Prestige. While I'm not super excited about the design, it's better than versions from years past in my opinion. My wife likes the Wizards so she was pleased to see a Bradey Beal show up. We also pulled a Paul Pierce base card, with him still in a Brooklyn uniform. Can't go wrong with Stephen Curry, arguably the best shooter in the game. And a new Duncan to add to the collection.

For the inserts and parallels, we start with a bonus shots /199 of Gerald Henderson. I was pumped to see the new Hornets logo on a card, but wish Henderson was in a Hornets uniform rather than Bobcats, even if photoshop would be necessary to make it happen.

What's better than a Duncan base card? A Duncan insert shared with the Admiral, of course!

My wife was pretty disgusted with the insert card of Birdman and the Worm, and while I'm not a big fan of either player, I can appreciate what Panini did with the Connections insert set.

And while I was underwhelmed with the Prestige base design, I loved opening Prizm. These cards look great in person, especially the parallels which I'll get to in a bit. A couple of Jazz, a rookie and second year player. My favorite base card from the break was easily the David West, my first Pacer I've added to my collection since 2012. Nice to see some new Pacers cardboard in person.

That's what I'm talking about. An early Shaq image from his days with the Magic. And two of the greatest coaches in NBA history who were also pretty good players.

And finally, the parallels. Included was a pack of 3 red/white/blue parallels, which scanned nicely and look even better in person. Was excited to pull a Hornets card where the player is actually wearing the uniform. Vonleh is not getting much playing time with the Hornets but with Al Jefferson out, he may crack the rotation. I enjoyed watching McGary at Michigan so it was nice to at least pull a parallel of a familiar rookie. He's played in just one game for the Thunder this year as he's battled several injuries. And a parallel of the other Warriors sharpshooter, Klay Thompson. He's averaging 21 points a game for the team with the league's best record.

It was nice to open some basketball packs, and while it's no longer the focus of my collection, I won't hesitate to add Pacers and Tim Duncan to my collection on occasion.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas Break Highlights

I rarely open packs these days, instead opting to purchase individual cards online or get them in trades. I was pretty much giddy when I found my stocking filled with a stack of packs of baseball and basketball cards. It was a special time opening these with my wife. I thought I would share some of the highlights from the packs.

Some inserts and parallels from Topps Series 2, Update series, and Donruss Series 2. I enjoy seeing the red parallels and would like to pick up some of these of my teams. I am thinking the Braves will look pretty sweet. As unexciting as the Donruss base cards are, the inserts and parallels are impressive.

Up next some Braves from Donruss Series 2. I included the Bonifacio as the Braves traded for him in August. He hit an unimpressive .212 with the Braves in 41 games, but the whole offense was a mess the second part of the season so can't get too down on him. He hit .279 for the Cubs before the trade. These are my first cards of Simmons and Bonifacio.

New cards for me of Chris Davis and Chris Tillman from Donruss Series 2. Hoping Chris Davis will bounce back in the new year. Looks like the Orioles and Tillman are talking extension. This is only the second card of Tillman in my collection.

Next up a few cards from Topps Update of Braves who are no longer with the team. Floyd started 9 games for the Braves during May and June before having elbow surgery. He signed a one-year deal with the Indians last month. And David Carpenter pitched 65 games in relief for the Braves with a 3.54 era and 3 saves. He was just recently traded to the Yankees along with Chasen Shreve for pitcher Manny Banuelos, who seems worthy of taking a chance on at just 23 years old.

Lastly from Topps Update, my first card of Rubby De La Rosa. How does he fit into my collection, you ask? He was the starting pitcher for the Red Sox in the game my wife and I saw at Fenway on our honeymoon back in June. Rubby got the W for the Red Sox, who won 1-0 on a sac fly from Mike Napoli. I was sad to see Rubby traded to the Diamondbacks with Allen Webster for pitcher Wade Miley. I think the Diamondbacks will be glad to have him as a back of the rotation starter.

I pulled some base cards of some stars as well such as Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig. I appreciate any chance to open packs, and them being a Christmas gift from my wife made opening them even better.

Hope you all had a great Christmas and spent lots of time with your loved ones. Have a great 2015!