Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Card Madness: Pt. 6

Last week, I started my own tournament in conjunction with March Madness: Card Madness.  I  created a bracket and I'm pitting baseball teams against each other in a battle to the death by showcasing cards from my collection, which have been randomly selected.  The bracket is here, so you can view progress.  Cards were chosen at random and each team will have a different representative every round.  This is baseball after all.  You can't pass the ball to Michael in Crunch Time; you have to go with the next man up in the order.

As four more teams bit the dust in the last post, there are twelve more remaining.  Let's narrow the field to the Elite Eight.

Round 2: Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels

2015 Topps Update Rookie Sensations #RS-6 Nomar Garciaparra vs. 2017 Topps All-Star Game MVPs #24 Mike Trout

This is the best matchup of the tournament so far.  Two legitimate stars, two inserts, face off.  An extra fun nugget for my collection is that I collect Nomar because of his ROY and Trout because of his ASG MVP.  And these two cards happen to feature both of those moments in their respective careers.  As far as the player matchup goes, I really was a big fan of Nomar.  But Mike Trout is probably the best player in this generation, and in the conversation for the best of my lifetime.  I don't know how to choose the better card design.  I like both.  Rookie Sensations were more colorful and had a cool team logo in the background.  The ASG MVP cards look like car designs.  My guess is that it's meant to tie in with the Chevy that the MVP receives.  Even if it isn't meant to tie in, it made me think of it, and that makes the design good to me anyway.  I like the photo on Trout's card more.  The All-Star cap and holding up the trophy truly commemorate the moment that fits my collection.  A good matchup between two nice cards, but I think Trout pulls out the win easily.

Winner: Angels

Round 2: Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets

2002 Donruss Originals #393 Chipper Jones vs. 2017 Topps #416 Neil Walker

Two AL East rivals bring another matchup I like.  These aren't inserts, but they are a couple of players I've always respected.  I think Chipper is the better player here, though.  Chipper is featured on what is probably my least favorite Donruss design ever (aside from the unlicensed mess Panini has been producing the past few years).  Yet somehow, it looks better when it is done 14 years later with a player who was still in high school when the original came out.  Is that the power of nostalgia?  I really prefer the photo on Walker's card.  That is the epitome of "keeping your eye on the ball."  Even at the highest level, the basics apply.  As for the backs, I'm a little disappointed in both.  The old Donruss cards had the player's full name, but this one says "Chipper" instead of "Larry Wayne."  From Walker's I learned that he is a Pittsburgh native, and that just makes this card even weirder to me.  Walker is a Pirate in my mind.

Winner: Braves

Round 2: Texas Rangers vs. Chicago White Sox

2017 Topps #317  Mitch Moreland vs. 2017 Topps #74 Brett Lawrie

2017 Topps is dominating the randomizer again.  I don't think this domination continues after this round, by the way.  But here we have a matchup of two 2017s, so the design is a wash.  This is a tough call on the better player.  I think I would give Lawrie a slight edge, but Moreland is good for 20+ homers per season, and, more importantly, he's still on a Major League roster.  The picture here will be the decider, and I  love the emotion and intensity Lawrie shows on this card.

Winner: White Sox

Round 2: Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals

2013 Panini Triple Play #89 Bryce Harper vs. 2017 Topps #158 Tommy Pham

The player here is no contest.  The card he is on, however, is going to score low on the design.  And actually, it's low because there is no photo.  If the border and all else looked like this with a picture, it wouldn't be too bad.  And, the picture on this card is one of the best in the set.  The pictures for both players are actually strikingly similar.  Tommy Pham was a great rookie last year, but this isn't his rookie card.  That would have scored it an extra point.  As it stands, I think I'm going with Harper and his kind of stupid cartoon card.  Maybe it's a touch of 2017 fatigue.  Maybe it's my bias against the Cardinals.  Maybe it's both.  Maybe I think Harper is enough better than Pham to overcome a bad set.  I don't know.  But. . .

Winner: Nationals

Card Madness 2018, Pt. 5: On to the Sweet Sixteen!

Last week, I started my own tournament in conjunction with March Madness: Card Madness.  I  created a bracket and I'm pitting baseball teams against each other in a battle to the death by showcasing cards from my collection, which have been randomly selected.  The bracket is here, so you can view progress.

After one round of play (which is really the point of this--playing with my cards), we have elimated 14 of the 30 MLB teams.  The Astros and Cubs will be joining us this round, as they both had byes in Round 1.

Round 2: Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Indians

2015 Topps Chrome #149 Evan Gattis vs. 1991 Topps #692 Efrain Valdez

Two great card designs here.  I love 2015 even more when it is chromed, and 1991 is one of my all-time favorite flagship designs.  The photos here are pretty boring.  Both players are featured in uniforms that looks like Spring Training t-shirts than actual uniforms.  The real edge goes here to Gattis, who is not only a superior player, but a really interesting guy.  El Oso Blanco picks up the victory here.

Winner: Astros

Round 2: Chicago Cubs vs. Colorado Rockies

1991 Upper Deck #332 Jerome Walton vs. 2016 Topps Archives #114 Jose Reyes 

Jose Reyes is clearly the better player here, but Jerome Walton won Rookie of the Year after a pretty nice debut season and even garnered some MVP votes in the process.  The ROY award gives him
a special place in my heart.  The juxtaposition of the photos is interesting to me here.  Both in their batting stances, on opposite sides of the plate, looking like they're facing each other.  I like the design on both, but I think I favor the clean look of early Upper Deck, and the team logo on the front.  The back will decide. . . and the trademark second photo on the flipside gives the edge to Upper Deck.

Winner: Cubs

Round 2: Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays

2016 Topps Opening Day #OD-32 Raul Mondesi vs. 2017 Topps Update #US76 Miguel Montero

Until this past June, Montero was my possibly favorite Cubs catcher ever.  He fell from grace quickly then.  Still, I have to say his career body of work far surpasses Mondesi's.  I'm not sure which design I prefer out of Topps's last two offerings.  A slight miscellaneous edge might be given to Mondesi for its being a rookie card, but it's not big.  Both photos showcase a follow-through.  On to the backs then: Mondesi refers to the cool fact that he was the first player to make his Major League debut in the World Series.  That's quite the stage to make an appearance.  Montero refers to his suddenly becoming available on the trade block.  That's just a bad reminder to me of the ignominious way he talked himself out of Chicago and off my Cubbies' roster.

Winner: Royals

Round 2: Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres

2017 Topps Update #US193 Orlando Arcia vs. 2012 Panini Cooperstown Induction #15 Tony Gwynn

There's an obvious mismatch in players here.  Arcia has shown lots of potential, but Gwynn is just too much for the youngster to overcome.  I like the design of Topps here more, but I have to admit that the somewhat bland design on the Induction card is well-suited for its subject.  It would be cringeworthy if it were meant to feature anything but a formal ceremony, though.  In all, I like the dichotomy in this matchup: Rookie Debut vs. Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.  I'll take Gwynn.

Winner: Padres

Monday, March 19, 2018

Card Madness 2018, Pt. 4: Out of the 1st Round

This week, I started my own tournament in conjunction with March Madness: Card Madness.  I  created a bracket and I'm pitting baseball teams against each other in a battle to the death by showcasing cards from my collection, which have been randomly selected.  The bracket is here, so you can view progress.

I may be a day late with this, but my goal was never to keep up with the NCAA tourney.  I figured that if I could reveal the Sweet Sixteen before that round actually started in basketball, I was okay.  So here have four more matchups, which will narrow our pool to 16 teams.

Round 1: Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox

2010 Topps Update #US276 Austin Jackson vs. 2015 Topps Heritage #324 Alexei Ramirez
Two nice-looking cards face off here.  I don’t have much 2010 flagship, but I really think it looks good.  Heritage carries all the simplicity of 1966 Topps, of course.  I like both.  Jackson has been a solid player throughout his career, but Ramirez was an All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger.  Plus, he looks like a Cuban Fresh Prince.
(Funny side note: I once overheard a conversation in my eighth grade classroom in which one student saying that he watched an old episode of the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and he couldn’t believe how much the Fresh Prince looked like Will Smith.)
Another point goes to Ramirez because of the cartoon on the back which highlights his 21-game hit streak.  Pretty impressive, and it’s a cartoon.

Winner: White Sox

Round 1: Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals

2015 Topps #662 Darrin Ruf vs. 2017 Topps #234 Luke Weaver 
This is another 2015 vs. 2017 flagship, and I keep expecting 2015 to pick up a win.  But Luke Weaver is a better (or at least, more promising) player and the photo features a clear shot of the jersey number.  For some reason I really like cards where I can see the jersey number prominently.  It may be horizontal and the Cardinals, but I’d take it over a 2015 Ruf anyday.

Winner: Cardinals

Round 1: Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Angels

2015 Topps Heritage #315 Adam Jones vs. 1990 Upper Deck #645 Jim Abbott
2015 Heritage makes a second straight appearance, and we see our first junk wax card.  How more of them haven’t shown up in the randomizer is a mystery to me.  I’ve always admired both of these players, but Jim Abbott moreso than the average player.  Not only was he a good pitcher, but he was truly inspirational.  I like 1990 Upper Deck more than I do 1989, so I’m toward Abbott for the card design.  It’s clean, crisp, and bright.  The back has Upper Deck signature second photo.  I really enjoy watching Adam Jones play, but Jim Abbott is simply the better card here.

Winner: Angels

Round 1: New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

1991 Donruss #154 David Cone vs. 2017 Topps Update #US130 Zack Greinke
Whoo, two really good pitchers.  I have always liked Zack Greinke.  I have people close to me who suffer from similar mental health issues to what Greinke fought so publicly earlier in his career.  Heck, given the nature of such issues, he is probably still battling them now.  David Cone once pitched a perfect game, though.  Still, if going by the player, I think I’d rather have Greinke on the mound.  The photos are actually quite similar.  Both righties in the windup, but you can see just how different their deliveries are.  Greinke is an All-Star card, which is cool, but Donruss’s blue border and orange speckles look great with the Mets uniform Cone is wearing.  I think this one must be decided by the back.  Normally, Topps would beat Donruss, but this card doesn’t have any stats.  So I’m going with Donruss and its full-name, lots of vitals, truncated stats back for the win.

Winner: Mets

I'm interested in hearing your takes.  Are there any cards you have especially liked?  Any that lost that you thought should have won?  Does your team still have a shot?  Now, on to the Sweet Sixteen! 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What's Going On?

What do Goose Gossage, Lou Gehrig, and Francisco Cordova have in common that makes them all legends?  The answer is in one of my new collecting projects.  Night Owl started an interesting Blog Bat Around about what current collecting projects he has.  I've been planning to write a post introducing my latest project for a while now, and here is my chance.  But let's start with other, larger projects.

I really don't want this to turn into a "What I Collect" post.  I'm going to stick strictly to what I would consider a "project."  For what I collect, let it suffice to say that I collect Packers, Cubs, and BYU players, and it is never a project.  It's just ongoing addition to my collection.

Most of you who read the blog regularly also know by now that my PCs and mini-collections center around All-Decade NFL teams, baseball All-Star Game MVPs, and baseball Rookies of the Year.  Those are ongoing collections, too.  However, there is an element to project about them that I will address here.

Project 1: Mini-Collection Binders

I have 5 binders of mini-collections: All-Decade Teams for the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, All-Star Game MVPs, and Rookies of the Year.  I will continue to seek out and keep any of these cards that come my way for most of these players.  However, some I've the players in this collection I don't like at all (see: Ryan Braun, Darren Sharper).  So there is a project for these mini-collections that will mark the end of my collecting for many of these players.  The is project is simple: create one entire page for each player.  After that, I will be more picky about the players I collect.

All-Star MVPs
All 1990s Team

Rookie of the Year

Project 2: Clean up my set wantlist.

I'm not spending much on cards this year.  I can't.  So the very limited budget I have will go mostly toward the hundreds of set needs I still have from yesteryear.  Sportlots, COMC, Just Commons, and ebay You-Pick lots will be main shopping spots this year as I seek out individual cards.  Just this week, I picked up nearly 400 cards from card sets ranging from 1992 to 2008.

Project 3: Refractors Frankenset

This one is self-explanatory.  I'm working on a Frankenset of refractors.  Any sport, any year.  1-300.  I'm probably about halfway done.

Project 4: Franchise 9

This is a project I started especially for this blog. . . and have done basically nothing with.  I need to start it up again when football training camp gets closer.  In a nutshell, I've got a 9 pocket page for each NFL team, featuring the franchise's best nine players in the Super Bowl Era.  I'm still missing about six cards to complete it, and I still need to do the write-ups.  By the time I get around to it, I may need to update the teams, though.

Project 5: Super Bowl Winning QBs

This one is simple: I add one card to the binder each year, of whichever QB won the Super Bowl that year.  Typically, I don't even need to buy a new card, as I already have a card of that player somewhere.  I wish I could have added Carson Wentz instead of Nick Foles to the binder, though.

And finally, my latest project.  I've been hard at work researching for this one.  I love projects that require some research and learning on my part.  So, who thinks they have figured out my initial question?  Gossage, Gehrig, and Cordova are legendary in the sense that they are all the best players ever to wear their respective jersey numbers.  That is my most recent undertaking.

Project 6: All-Time Best Jersey Numbers

I've spent a lot of time on for this one.  I've been finding out who had the best careers while wearing a certain number.  The names that have come up have been surprising.  Some numbers have far too much representation to include all of them, while others have just a few big-name players.  When the numbers get above 50, there are fewer players to actually play in the Majors with the number.  Some numbers have no real representation.  But the project will include the top three players of each number, to fill one row of a 9-pocket page.  It's kind of fun and I'm excited to show it off, but I still need quite a few cards.

So there you have it.  My collection in projects.  And, of course, the old team and player collection standbys will continue to factor in.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Card Madness 2018: Pt. 3

This week, I started my own tournament in conjunction with March Madness: Card Madness.  I  created a bracket and I'm pitting baseball teams against each other in a battle to the death by showcasing cards from my collection, which have been randomly selected.  The bracket is here, so you can view progress.

Four more teams were eliminated yesterday.  We have this weekend to narrow the field down by seven more to reach the Sweet 16.  Let's see what the cards hold for today.

Round 1: San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves

2016 Topps Bunt #72 Buster Posey vs. 1997 Leaf #97 Fred McGriff

Great matchup here!  Two All-Stars, McGriff is a borderline Hall of Famer and Posey will probably make it in.  Two nice sets as well.  I really liked the colorful, bold design when Bunt appeared two years ago, but 1997 Leaf is just as good for different reasons.  It looks more elegant.  Both have good action photos, but the recognizable Crime Dog follow-through is a work of art.  The back of these cards is where we’ll separate the two.  Leaf may not have full stats, but it does have a second photo.  Bunt’s backs are just terrible.  There is no contest with the backs.  I’m giving this one to McGriff.

Winner: Braves

Round 1: Kansas City Royals  vs. Seattle Mariners 

2013 Topps Opening Day #5 Eric Hosmer vs. 1994 Collector’s Choice #317 Ken Griffey, Jr.

For the second matchup in a row, both players are PC guys.  And my first thought is “It’s Griffey!  Of course he wins!”  But let’s just slow this down for a minute.  First, there is no contest between Hosmer and Griffey.  But the rest of the cards tell a different story.  If this were the regular base card of 1994 Collector’s Choice, it would be better for Griffey.  But this checklist isn’t really to my taste.  It’s not all that excited and the artwork isn’t eye-popping.  Hosmer has a nice follow-through shot on the Sea Turtle design, and it just looks better.  Add in the backs, where we have full stats versus cards 65-128, and the advantage goes to Hosmer.  I’m not a checklist enthusiast, unfortunately.  Eric Hosmer pulls off an upset against Ken Griffey, Jr.

Winner: Royals

Round 1: Miami Marlins vs. Milwaukee Brewers

2016 Topps Bunt #98 Dee Gordon vs. 2017 Topps #3 Chris Capuano

If this matchup were on TV, I wouldn’t be watching.  But one of these teams will advance to the Sweet 16.  I like the intensity shown in the photos of both of these cards.  I’m not sure who I would take between Gordon and Capuano.  I typically like Bunt, but I don’t like Miami’s new look, and seeing it so big on the card in this set is not appealing.  The clincher here is the back, though.  Capuano’s blurb is a shout-out to his “tenacity” for overcoming multiple injuries throughout his career maintaining a Big League level of play.  I’ll take that for the win.

Winner: Brewers

Soon we'll finish up the first round and finalize the Sweet 16.  Thanks for reading!