Friday, September 10, 2021

Big XII, Here We Come!

This has been one heck of an exciting week to be a BYU fan. For those of us who have been following closely, it has seemed like a done deal. But I couldn't make myself fully believe until it became official today.

BYU IS JOINING THE BIG 12.

Eleven years ago, TCU and Utah bolted the Mountain West for P5 conferences. BYU took a gamble and decided to go independent in football rather than stick around with the leftovers. There were some rocky years, for sure--especially during the first few years before they had scheduling partners. We were subject to multiple FCS opponents per year. And once there was one loss on the record, the bowl destination was already confirmed due to exclusive tie-ins with certain bowls. Spoiler alert: they were never good bowls. But the past few years have been fun as AD Tom Holmoe was able to make scheduling deals with more and more programs, resulting in a schedule that includes 4-6 P5 teams that we would never have seen otherwise--Wisconsin, Michigan St., Tennessee, to name a few. But we still faced the same "lose one and what is left to play for?" predicament and a very "blah" schedule from mid-October on. Now, after a couple of flirtations with Power 5 conferences that failed to end in invites, BYU has schedule stability and a conference with better bowl tie-ins. And I am pumped.

To celebrate the day, I'm posting my self-created eBay blaster that I received about two weeks ago. I've made COMC blasters before, but never eBay. I was searching for a Dax Milne auto and came across a seller who had a deal that was something like "buy 20, get 40% off," so I started looking through his singles. The cards I picked out cost me $24 shipped, about the same as a $20 plus tax blaster.


It's BYU's big day, so let's show off some new BYU pick-ups. Congrats to Dax Milne, who was the second-to-last pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and ended up making the roster for the Washington Football Team. He's a great story: he went from walk-on to 7th round draft pick to NFL roster spot.



A good chunk of my blaster went toward my refractor frankenset. Brett Kennedy and Robbie Ray are serial-numbered to boot.

I bolstered my ROY collection, especially my cards of last year's winners, Kyle Lewis and Devin Williams.


I also took advantage to add to my most recent PC addition, All-Star Game MVP Vlad, Jr. Cronenworth, Houck, and Colon were just cards that I thought would be worth owning, even if they didn't have a specific place in my collection.


I picked up some shiny NFL All-Decade performers.

And oh, yes, I did find a Dax Milne auto.

I haven't seen any blasters in a store for a while, but I have seen them being sold on eBay for more than $30 apiece. Some of those blasters have 20 cards in them. If I could see a blaster that contained 34 cards, 18 guaranteed refractors, and three autos, I would jump on it. And if I was guaranteed to have all 34 cards be keepers in my collection? That's a no-brainer. I think I did pretty well for myself with my faux blaster.

Go Cougs! If we can beat Utah tomorrow and end the streak, this may shape up to be one of the greatest weekends of my fandom.



Thursday, September 9, 2021

Wolverine Pride Fantasy League, Year 5

As always, I have multiple fantasy leagues, but the one league that really counts is our school league that I started five years ago. Entering our fifth year, we have a new defending champ. Actually, we've never had somebody win our league twice. I'm looking to be the first one after having won it in 2019. I had a great shot at it last year, but lost in the first round in the playoffs, despite that week's score being the second-highest point total in the entire league last season. Yes, my opponent happened to put up the highest total against me in the same week. What are the odds?

This year, I'm not as confident in my draft. We had a couple of new players last year who figured things out and drafted much better this year, making our auction a lot more competitive. But that's good; competitive is fun. Here is my roster for 2021.

2019 Panini Unparalleled #107 Dak Prescott Front
 
QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas

I wasn't expecting to spend as much as I did on a QB, but when Dak came up on the board, I had him highly rated and an excess of budget. So I took a bigger QB than I intended. If he's fully healthy, I think he'll have a big year.

I don't have a Gibson card. Image from TCDB
 
RB1: Antonio Gibson, Washington

When I do a standard draft, I target RBs in the first round. For an auction draft, I just make a list of top-tier players that I would like and give myself a budget. Typically what happens is the top running backs go for far beyond my budget and I get the top receivers in my budget. It also means I can find ball carriers who are "the guy" in their backfields for a good price because everyone's money is gone. Gibson is the undisputed guy in Washington, so I'll take him as my RB1.

I don't have a Robinson card either. Image from TCDB






RB2: James Robinson, Jacksonville

I found another workhouse back for my team. Neither Robinson nor Gibson are spectacular, but to have two running backs who aren't part of a committee in my fantasy backfield is a win to me. On a card note, I haven't found many cards to buy on the shelves in 2020 and 2021, so I don't a card of either of the second-year RBs on my team.

2015 Panini Prestige #285a Stefon Diggs Front 
 
WR1: Stefon Diggs, Buffalo
 
Diggs was on my shortlist of top-tier players to target. I got him within budget after all of the other top-tier players had been bid up. Again, the lack of card purchases in the past two years means I don't have a Bills card of him.
 
2013 Panini Prizm #225 DeAndre Hopkins Front 
 
WR2: DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona
 
So I'm sitting there bidding on Hopkins, thinking I was only going to bid him up to certain point and let somebody spend their money on him. Suddenly, I have a bid of a mere $20 in and the time is ticking down. With one second on the clock, I'm thinking I just got him for $20?! I'd take that any day. Then somebody bid it up at the last second. In the end, I got Nuk for $24, which is still a major steal to me.

2010 SAGE HIT #84 Rob Gronkowski Front 
 
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay
 
Last year, I wouldn't have touched Gronk. Now that I know he is back in football shape after his retirement, I think he still has major value working with Tom Brady. I'm banking on that at least, as I elected not to spend big money on a tight end.
 
2018 Donruss #311 Calvin Ridley Front
 
FLEX 1: Calvin Ridley, Atlanta
 
I make my list of top-tier and set my budget, hoping to get at least one. Then I get my second-tier list and hope for one or two. I got two of my second-tier receivers this year: Ridley and Hopkins. With Julio Jones gone in Atlanta this year, Calvin Ridley will end as a WR1 this year. And he's my WR3. I'm set at receiver, barring injury.

2019 Panini Absolute - Retail #109 Darrell Henderson Front 
 
FLEX 2: Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
 
Our league got rid of the kicker position this year in favor of another flex. As commissioner, I just decided that kickers were too unpredictable, so to use a little more fantasy skill and knowledge, we put another flex on the field. Henderson is a borderline RB1 in LA. Many people are worried about Sony Michel taking carries from Henderson, but I think he'll still command the majority of the touches.
 
2020 Score #101 Darius Leonard Front
DEF: Indianapolis . . . 

for now. I will stream defenses through the season.

Bench:
Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Houston
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco
Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville
Marquez Callaway, WR, New Orleans

What I really learned from my fantasy draft this year is that I need some 2020-2021 football cards. I don't have last year's rookies and Diggs, Hopkins, and Gronk are on teams that I don't have cardboard representation for.

How do you feel about my team? This is how Fantasy Pros graded it:

Last year, PoinkDaChamp and I were flipped, and Poink won. So maybe I'm just where I need to be.

Yahoo's not quite as bullish on my draft:

 

I want to hear your thoughts in the comments. And how does it stack up against your team? And are you ready for some football?!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Rookie of the Year Spotlight: Jeremy Hellickson

Some of the collections I have been working on over the years are starting to get filled out and my goals are being reached. As a result, I'm starting to slow down a little when it comes to acquiring many cards for some of my mini-collections. Now that the collection is feeling more and more complete, I wanted to start showcasing the cards I have, player by player.

One such collection is my Rookie of the Year collection. I love collecting players who have won the award as the top newcomer in each league. This wasn't born of hot rookie hype and the desire to prospect. Rather, I became fascinated thinking about the careers of guys like Eric Karros, Jerome Walton, and Tim Salmon, who experienced varying degrees of success but may not have become superstars. I thought it would be fun to have a collection that chronicles the individual career journeys of rookie stars--whether they burned bright and flamed out quickly, regressed to the mean, or wended their way to Cooperstown.
 
My goal has been to fill a binder page for each player who won the award in my lifetime and to fill a row for older players. I may expand that later as I expand my vintage collection. The ultimate goal of my binder is to show a card from every different uniform the player wore, from fresh-faced rookie to grizzled vet. This series is to commemorate each Rookie of the Year's career and show my collection of their cards. I placed all of the past winners into random.org and got my order. The next player up is:
 

Jeremy Hellickson

This is the Hellickson page in my ROY binder.

A former 4th-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2005, Jeremy Hellickson got his first taste of Major League action in 2010. In that first cup of coffee, Hellickson made 4 starts of the 10 games he played, pitching 36.1 innings and finishing with a 4-0 record. The impressive debut meant that he was going to stick around for the 2011 season. He did not disappoint in his first full season. In 2011, he started 29 games, pitching 189 innings. He struck out 117 batters, recorded a 2.95 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He took home AL Rookie of the Year honors comfortably, collecting 17 of the 28 first place votes. Second place went to Mark Trumbo, who received 5 first place votes, followed by Eric Hosmer with 4. Evan Nova and Dustin Ackley both received a single vote apiece.

Interestingly, Hellickson's stats simultaneously improved and regressed in the coming years. Moving on from his rookie season, he improved both his strikeout and walk rates, while his ERA and WHIP both climbed. He also won a Gold Glove award in 2012. He spent five years in Tampa Bay before Arizona traded Andrew Velasquez and Justin Williams for his services in the offseason following the 2014 season. He played one season for the D-Backs, starting 27 games before being traded again. One year to the day after joining Arizona, he was shipped again. This time, he was traded to the Phillies for Sam McWilliams. He spent two seasons in Philadelphia, having arguably his best season since his rookie year in 2016. That season he matched his career-high in innings, had a sub-four ERA for the first time since 2012, and recorded his highest strikeout total (154) and K/BB ratio (3.42) in his career. The next season, he regressed and was dealt at the trade deadline to Baltimore for Garrett Cleavinger and Hyun Soo Kim. His time in Baltimore did not go well and at the end of the season, Hellickson was on the move again. This time, he signed a free agent contract with the Washington Nationals. He started 27 games for the Nats in 2018 and 2019, posting a 4.28 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. He has not played since 2019.

In all, he appeared in 232 games, starting 224 of them. He had a career 4.13 ERA and 929 strikeouts. He pitched two complete game shutouts. In 10 seasons, he was a serviceable rotation starter for five teams, won two awards (ROY and Gold Glove), but never was an All-Star or received any Cy Young votes. I have a card representing his time with all five teams.

I hope you are enjoying this series. I plan to keep it going until I've covered all of the MLB Rookie Award Winners.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Wax Pack Wonder of a PWE

A couple of weeks ago, Jeff of Wax Pack Wonders contacted me to verify my address. He wanted to send me some cards, and he sent me some good ones. Included in his PWE was a note telling me that he had been going through bloggers' wantlists and clearing out some of his trade boxes. I'm happy to be one of his recipients.


Jeff focused his efforts on adding to my All-Star Game MVP collection. He almost single-handedly doubled my Don Sutton cards. I didn't have any Sutton Brewer cards prior to this, but I definitely do now.


I also didn't have any Bobby Bonds as a Ranger or Angel, so these were definitely new to me, too.


And who doesn't love Ken Griffey, Jr.? I like the photos on all three of these cards: a pair of warm-ups and a smooth slide. They may be junk wax, but they are junk wax I didn't have of a all-time great!

Thanks a ton, Jeff! All of these cards are welcome additions to my collection. If you aren't familiar with his blog, go check it out. Thanks for stopping by today.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Blog Bat Around: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

A couple of months ago, Matt suggested the Blog Bat Around idea of providing a virtual vacation of our respective corners of the country through our blogs. I thought it was a great idea, but I never acted on it. Until now. I was waiting for an opportune time, and now that we are back in school and doing all of our normal "Back-to-School" things, I wanted to provide my virtual tour of Utah in the traditional "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay mold.

My photo essay of my travels covers more than my little area. I'm including many of the sights I saw this summer from our various trips, but at no time did I leave the state. As the only card blogger from Utah (I think), I feel comfortable claiming the entire state as my area, though Utah does contain three very distinct geographic regions within its borders. With any luck, that will just make this all the more interesting.

Let's start close to home and move outward.

This is the view from my front yard.


And from the back window. From the front you see a cornfield; in the back is alfalfa.

And everywhere else in our part of town is orchards. Cherries and apples. None of the farms are ours, though; they just surround us.

This scene was filmed about 2 miles from my house:
 
 
We live just on the edge of the city limits, though. The town looks more like this:
 
 

Main Street, Payson.
 
My daily drive to work takes me past a local landmark.
 
Y Mountain | Local News | heraldextra.com
Photo Credit: heraldextra.com

BYU's Y Mountain. I know a lot of places paint their water towers for the local school. Well, in these parts we don't have water towers. So we paint the mountains. On my drive to work, I pass the "P" for Payson High, the "G" for Pleasant Grove High, and the largest of all, the "Y." I don't know how many other places do it, but it's definitely common practice in Utah.

Matt asked us to share local cuisine. Well, I think you all understand Mexican food. Seriously, excluding fast food and pizza joints, about 85% of the restaurants--and two of the three food trucks--are Mexican places. That may not be the best indicator, though, since my town is so small. By driving just a few miles, you can probably find just about any kind of food you want. I don't know of any typical "Utah" cuisine. Google will tell you that the most popular dish in Utah is Jell-o, but that is a flat-out lie. That's just some weird stereotype that somehow lives on.


There is this, though. I've talked to people from out-of-state, and I've learned that this type of establishment is a uniquely Utah one. It's a soda shop where you can get your Dr. Pepper or Coke or whatever "dirty": with syrups or other add-ins. There are dozens of these in my county, and most places have multiple options in town. My theory is that since members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don't drink coffee, they simply pick something else to drink constantly. I'm not a fan of these places because I don't drink a lot of fizzy drinks. And when I do, I don't want to spend twice as much so I can get coconut syrup and raspberry puree in it.

And if you can read the marquee, it says, "Try Utah's favorite pink cookie." A staple of the drink store is a cookie menu, particularly pink sugar cookies.

Swig Cookies – Swig
Photo Credit: swignsweets.com
They all have cookies. And while we're on the topic of pink, fry sauce is another Utah favorite.

Fry sauce - Wikipedia
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
 
Fry sauce is a mixture of ketchup and mayo (and other things, like dill relish, worchestershire, or hot sauce). According to Wikipedia, it appears in cookbooks as early as 1900, but it was popularized in the 1950s by the Utah fast food chain Arctic Circle. You can get fry sauce anywhere in Utah. (I never take any pictures of my food, and I never order cookies at drink stops, so these pictures aren't mine.)

Now that you've seen the local flavors, come with me on a few road trips around the state.


This is Santaquin Canyon, about 5 miles south of my house. This is our favorite picnic spot and we have family gatherings up here a couple of times a year. It has been an even better place lately, since there was a major wildfire in the canyon three years ago and part of the road was destroyed. Now automobile traffic is blocked, and we just park and walk along the road for about 2 miles to get to our spot. It's extra quiet now that nobody can drive on the road.


We made a trip to the old mining town 15 miles west of where I grew up. This is Eureka, Utah, and it was once a bustling mining town, rich with both silver and gold. Now it's barely hanging on as a ghost town. Actually, I wrote my senior thesis in college on the Tintic Mining District out here. We took my history professor buddy because it was one of the few historical sites in Utah he'd never visited.


Speaking of historical sites, we visited Promontory Point, location of Golden Spike National Monument. This is where the final spike was driven to connect the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, completing the transcontinental railroad and connecting the East and West Coasts for the first time.
 


Traveling farther from home, we head south to Capitol Reef National Park in central Utah. It's a small park--and fairly isolated--so it's a nice place to visit and not be overrun with crowds.

One thing that makes Utah so cool is that three distinct geographical regions intersect here: the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Where I live, we have the Rockies to the east and the Great Basin to the west. You could see those elements in the pictures near my house. As you head south, though, you see lots of mesas and amazing red rock formations in the Colorado Plateau. I may live in the Wasatch Mountains, but southern Utah is my favorite part of the state.


Like Bryce Canyon National Park, about an hour's drive south of Capitol Reef. The contrast between the red hoodoos and the green pines is breathtaking from the rim.


But it's pretty incredible from the canyon floor, too.

We also traveled east of our home, from the Wasatch to the Uinta chains in the Rocky Mountains, and visited Dinosaur National Monument. Yes, those are exposed dinosaur bones in the rock face. There are literally hundreds of bones you can see in the wall; they just built the museum around it. 

And that about wraps up the sights I saw with my family this summer. We didn't go north, which is where all the people live. If you were to visit and say, land at the Salt Lake airport, I would recommend a couple of cool locations.

Salt Lake City ~ Utah ~ Salt Lake City Temple ~ Temple Squ… | Flickr
Photo Credit: Flickr

First, Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Here you can see the most famous of the 17 LDS temples in Utah. The domed building behind it is the Tabernacle, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

This Is The Place Heritage Park
Photo Credit: thisistheplace.org

The second place I'd visit in Salt Lake is This Is the Place Heritage Park. It's a monument that marks where the first Mormon pioneers entered the valley and Brigham Young said, "This is the place," and they decided to settle here. There is a cool state park here where kids can experience different aspects of pioneer life, including making wagon wheels or watching a blacksmith at work. 

So there you have it: a virtual tour of my home state and some of the things I've seen. This is how I spent my summer vacation. How about you? I'm looking forward to more people taking up Matt's Blog Bat Around and letting all of us experience your corner of the country.