Friday, April 29, 2016

2015 Topps Platinum

Soon after I set up my Zistle account, I received a trade proposal from user YorksJJr.  We worked out a trade that centered around our team collections--I sent some Redskins his way, and got some good Packers in return.  One of them was this 2015 Topps Platinum Jordy Nelson.  Normally, I try to build the Topps Chrome set yearly, but I had been rather unimpressed with this year's Topps football design, and was a bit ambivalent about the Chrome set.  But this Platinum, with its refractor-like qualities, full-bleed photo, and giant team logo in the background, caught my eye.  I decided to Platinum this year instead.  I'll have more on the rest of YorkJJr's trade later, but right now I'll show you my set build of this shiny, fine-looking product.

 I bought a blaster box and a multi-pack rack pack and got off to a good start.  The base set was beginning to grow, and I pulled a nice Mariota X-Fractor among the other rookie parallels in the box.

Then I got a nice bonus--a BCA Pink Refractor numbered to 10--and featuring Brett Hundley, who just happens to be a wearing my team's uniform.  Not bad from a big box store blaster.

The rack pack had more base and included 5 Flame parallels.  Ameer Abdullah, Melvin Gordon, Kevin White.  Not too bad.  But the fifth. . . Brett Hundley again!  I'm suddenly starting a rainbow with two retail purchases.

I ordered a hobby box from Dave & Adam's Card World and hoped that would get me pretty close to the 150-card set.  Every hobby pack comes with a gold veteran parallel, and there are two autos and one auto-relic in every box.  Since my aim in purchasing the box was to build the base set, I began to get worried as the packs were running low and I still hadn't pulled either of the two most expensive cards in the set: Mariota and Jameis Winston.  I didn't really want to have to pay for both on the secondary market.  But the last card of the last pack came up Jameis.  Whew.  That knocked at least one of them off my need list.

My biggest beef with this box is the collation.  Maybe it was just dumb bad luck, but I pulled dupes of almost every card that I already had from the retail.  Where are all the other players?  Plus, every gold parallel in the box also included the base of the same player in the box.  I'm not too upset about that; they are two different cards after all, but it makes me question why all the same players are lumped together all the time.  Some of my golds were pretty good players, though.  I've already completed sent Cam, Russell, and Eli out in trades.

The was one blue parallel: Panthers rookie Devin Funchess.

 My two autos weren't all that noteworthy: La'el Collins and P.J. Williams.

The auto relic wasn't a great name, but it was a purple version.  The three-color patch is nice and it has a print run of 10.  It's a pretty nice looking card.

I came closer to set completion and a subsequent Zistle trade with Yorks brought me even closer.  But I haven't told you the best part yet.  The finale is . . .

a Sammie Coates black printing plate.  Folks, you are witnessing the first 1 of 1 I have ever pulled.  The first I have ever owned, in fact.  Between the Jesse James and Sammie Coates, this was a great box for Steelers collectors.

Aside from the poor collation and dupes--seriously, I would have had the same percentage of the base set without spending a dime on the retail packs--I'm happy with the product.  I like the design, pulled some super short prints, and even got a nice hit from my team of a blaster.  Now to track down the other 30 or so cards I need.

On a side note, if you haven't checked out the contest on Sports Card Collectors' blog, get into it.  Entry ends today, and you just have to let him know your favorite Topps product.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Anatomy of a Draft Bust

Ever since childhood, I have been fascinated with the NFL Draft.  My parents got me an NFL almanac for Christmas when I was 10 years old, and I spent the next few months memorizing the first rounds of previous drafts and learning the overall draft positions of some of my favorite players.  It might sound weird, I know, but is it any different from all of us who memorized batting averages from the backs of the our baseball cards?  By the time the next April rolled around, I was ready to see which college players would go where.  I sat the entire day in front of the TV, watching the draft for the first time.  Within three years, I was making my own mock drafts and comparing my accuracy to Mel Kiper.  I even tried (unsuccessfully) to get the local newspaper to publish my mock draft over the syndicated one they ran every year the day before the draft.

I love the NFL Draft because it's simultaneously a time of cathartic closure and hopeful beginnings.  Many of these young men have been working toward and dreaming of making the NFL, and the suspense ends on draft day.  But as one door is closing, these prospects are bursting through another.  I'm the kind of guy that hopes that every draft pick succeeds, even though I'm not always convinced they are all they're cracked up to be.  In my perfect world, all first rounders become Pro Bowlers.  The top five picks should all pan out to be Hall of Fame caliber players.  I would love starting lineups to be filled with players taken between rounds two and four.  It's not that I especially love scouts and GMs, but I want all the players to live up to expectations.

While I have high hopes for every prospect, the chance that some may fail while others succeed well beyond their scouting report's ceiling adds drama to the draft.  But to me the question is always, "Who could be the hidden gem?" rather than "Which of these guys will go down in flames?"  I've been familiarizing myself with the big names at the top of the draft for weeks and wish them a successful career.

I suppose that's why I'm so intrigued by draft busts.  These are guys who I believed in.  A lot of people believed in them.  General managers put their jobs on the line to select them.  Fans invested in the idea that these players are the future of the franchise.  These guys have proven something somewhere along the way to get to where they are.  And then a few years down the road, hope has succumbed to disappointment, excitement has morphed to anxiety, and welcoming fanbases have turned angry.   How does it all go wrong?

The Injury Bug

Some of these busts are not to blame.  It's that pesky injury bug who won't leave them alone.  Ki-Jana Carter immediately comes to mind.  The number one overall pick blew out his knee in the preseason of his rookie year, and it was lights out for his career; he never fully recovered.  The injury bug busts are by far the most pitiable.

The Workout Warrior

Some guys were never really thought of as a great prospect--until the combine, that is.  Then they put on a show and flew up the draft boards to a bloated ranking.  Once at the professional level, the balloon is burst and they show that they may be physical freaks, but they can't keep up with the football talent around them.  Mike Mamula is Exhibit A.  He trained for the combine and came away with unbelievable numbers.  The Eagles traded up to snatch him, passing on both Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the process.  He finished his career with 31.5 sacks.  It wasn't awful, but he became the poster child for the Workout Warrior.

The Overreach

The scouts agree: this player is a late first-rounder, early second-rounder.  But what's this?  He gets his name called at #7?  What is going on here?  Poor Kiper and Mayock are left scrambling to explain this pick, but the fact of the matter is, [insert your team here] just fell in love with this kid and couldn't risk losing him by waiting until next round.  Now the expectations are sky high, as is the eventual fall.  Darrius Heyward-Bey comes to mind here.  Heyward-Bey was a speedy receiver, and that was enough for Al Davis.  It wasn't, unfortunately, enough for his career.  Was he decent as a first-round pick?  Maybe.  He is still kicking around the league, after all.  But the expectations set with his draft position turned him into a bust.  Christian Ponder has fallen into this category, and E.J. Manuel is dangerously close to the edge.

The Character Issues

Some guys just can't stay on the field, but it has little to do with injuries.  In these cases, talent trumped red flags during the draft, but the issues ended up weighing far more in the end.  Lawrence Phillips and Johnny Manziel both fit the bill here.  Phillips had far more character concerns coming out of college than Manziel, and he managed to live up to about all of them.  His sad story ended in prison, where he passed away last year.  Johnny Manziel just managed to party his way of the league.  Always the hopeful one, I really do hope that he gets his life together, even if his future doesn't hold the NFL.

The Gilded Boy

And sometimes, the Can't-Miss Prospects just miss horribly.  I don't have an explanation for this, but the laundry list is long: Andre Ware, Tony Mandarich, Todd Marinovich, Rick Mirer, Heath Shuler, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown (what was wrong with that 1999 QB class?), Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jamarcus Russell, Trent Richardson, etc.  I wish I knew why.  So does every scout, talent evaluator, GM, and coach out there.  Sometimes people just get it wrong.  Remember the genuine debate over Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf?  Bill Polian made the right decision, but many (my high school self included) thought he got it wrong.  But imagine the course of NFL history if he had selected Leaf instead and Peyton ended up in San Diego.

As a disclaimer, I had no intention of making a comprehensive list of NFL Draft Busts.  There are plenty out there who receive no mention here.   I just wanted to touch on a few draft bust types and highlight some cards along the way.

Sometimes I feel like I should start a draft bust PC.  Or maybe a Frankenset.  Maybe that's just the morbidity in me, keeping mementos as kind of a requiem for the career of a player busted out of the league.  But it's too sad a collection to think about.  I appreciate having the piece of draft history in my collection, but I'll pass on having an entire collection of it.

What do you think?  Who was the biggest draft bust of all-time?  Sound off in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Johnny on the (Trading) Spot

As I'm new to the blogging community, I've reached out to a few people about trades.  I may not have the same quality or quantity of cards as some of the trades I see being completed on the blogs around me, but I have found some cards on people's want lists.  I found a few set needs and binder guys that John at Johnny's Trading Spot had listed, so we arranged a trade.

I didn't collect a whole lot of baseball as a kid.  I've always been more of a football guy.  I've been on a baseball tear since I got back into the hobby, though, but one side effect is that my collection tends to be newer cards.  One of the nice things about not having the largest baseball collection is that when people want to unload their "junk," most of it is new to me.  This was the case as I received a nice package from John this week, most of it filled with 90s goodness of All-Star MVPs, Rookies of the Year, and World Series MVPs.  I may be the last collector on the interwebs to need these cards, but John found them a good home here.

Let's start out with the All-Star MVPs, which, aside from the Cubs, is the focus of my baseball collection.

All of these Griffeys were needs for my collection.  I have no idea what the Playball card in the top left is, but it's cool oddball that I never even knew existed.  It may be my favorite Griffey of the bunch.

 Bo Jackson was another great All-Star Game MVP.  Love the sticker with Eric Davis.  Am I the only who had forgotten completely, or never really known, that Bo was an Angel?  I have no memory of this at all, so the card was a shock to me.

Continuing with the All-Star MVPs, Fred McGriff and Tim Raines both fit the bill.  I love the spectrum of
teams represented by the Crime Dog here.

Cal and Ichiro are two of my favorites to collect because they were both All-Star MVPs and Rookies of the Year.  They'll bridge the gap here as we take a look at the ROYs.

Two more oddballs, from the 1992 7/11 Citgo set.  I apparently didn't frequent the right gas stations as a 10 year old, as I had never seen this set before.

Mark McGwire isn't my favorite guy to collect, because of the whole PED issue and the fact that much of his heyday was spent as a Cardinal.  But he does fit in the ROY category.  If I'm going to have cards of him in my collection, they're best his Oakland cards because that was when he won the award and those days came before everything that made me dislike the player.  Rafael Furcal won the award with Atlanta in 2000 and this my first card of him with the Braves.

The Braves collector came through with this Braves Rookie of the Year.  Check out that Shades card.  Yikes!  That is an almost frightening subset.  In all these cards, we have the first card that wasn't a need for me: the 1991 Score.  Everything else you have seen is brand-new to me.

The last PC theme that John hit was World Series heroes.  Here are a pair of cards from teams north of the border, though Pedro did his World Series heroics with Boston later in his career.

John hit me with another Braves player who fits into my PC.  I collect Andruw Jones cards solely because of the birthday he shares with my son--which is on Saturday, by the way.  Make sure you all send Andruw your best wishes...

Someday my son will receive my Andruw Jones PC for his birthday.  I really want him to learn some 90s hip-hop jive off the back of this card.  Definitely one of the most interesting card backs I've seen.  It sounds like when your teacher tried to drop the latest slang in an effort not to be lame, but proved himself lame in the process.  Trust me; as a teacher, I know what this sounds like.

We'll wrap the trade with this Vlad Guerrero promo card.  Not a PC guy, but a promo oddball is always welcomed.

Thanks, John, for the generous trade package.  My meager collection feels like it got a shot in the arm, if not a Mark McGwire-type shot. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This is NOT a Football School: Why I Collect Brad Sorensen

Sometimes I wish I had gone to a football school.  You know what I mean: the kind of place with a stadium that could hold entire mid-western cities.  The place where tailgates last all weekend and the weekdays are spent in anticipation for the next game.  ESPN College Gameday shows up with their portable set and invites celebrity guest pickers.  My school was nothing like that.  We fielded a football team.  That's about the most that I can say. 

I attended Southern Utah University, an FCS school in, well, southern Utah.  A little college town named Cedar City, to be exact.  My path toward SUU began when I was in 8th grade and a school counselor asked me, "Where are you going to college?"  When I replied I didn't know, he said, "I'll tell you where you'll go to college.  Whatever school offers you a scholarship."  That statement changed my life, because it helped me stay focused on my academics in high school.  I played and loved football, but I also knew that as a 160 pound offensive lineman, I wasn't going to be playing at the college level.  Still, it was football that led me to my eventual alma mater.

My high school football coach was a 4-year starter at QB for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.  At the time he was coaching, he still held every passing record in the school's book.  He took the team to a week-long football camp at SUU during the summer before my junior year.  I fell in love with the campus immediately.  When I got home I told my mom, "I know where I'm going to college."  I was already making plans to major in English and gain a teaching certificate.  It just so happened that SUU's two claims to fame are its excellent teacher education program and the annual Shakespearean Festival, which draws thousands of visitors from across the nation.  It seemed like a perfect fit.

And really, it was a great fit.  I'm proud to be a Southern Utah graduate.  The students in my class know exactly where I attended college because I talk about it frequently.  But the football fan in me wasn't satisfied.  We got a new coach the year I started and he posted a respectable 6-5 record that first season.  His teams would go a combined 5-28 for the rest of the time I attended the school.  They posted an 0-11 mark during my last year there.  And really, there were few who cared.  The fans were unenthusiastic at best, completely apathetic at worst.  After four years, I was leaving town with a degree, and the head football coach was leaving town too, also after four years.  When I think about football futility, I think to myself, I don't even know my own alma mater's fight song.  We never scored enough for me to learn it.  We had a linebacker go pro, a guy named Marques Harris, but he was only the second T-Bird to appear in the NFL.  The first had been in 1977.  Yeah, this definitely was not a football school.

A new coach came on the year after I left, and things started to turn upward.  He rebuilt (or just built?) the program.  By 2010 (I won't say how long after me that was) there was a star QB in town.  His name was Brad Sorensen, and he had transferred from BYU after being buried on the depth chart.  (As an avid BYU football fan, I can tell you that most Cougar fans would have loved to have him around during those years.  He was probably a better option than what stayed in Provo after he left.  Quarterback evaluation was an Achilles' heel for the coaching staff.)  During Sorensen's senior season, I attended a game and overheard an opposing player tell a traveling fan that they would be facing a quarterback who had NFL talent.  I overheard this conversation on the stadium concourse before the game.  The stadium really is small enough that players and fans sometimes wind up mingling together.   Sorensen proved his opponent correct by becoming the first player from Southern Utah University to be drafted in the NFL, going in the 7th round, 221st overall, to the Chargers.  It may have only been the 7th round, but a selection is a selection, and he was the first.

To my knowledge, no other SUU alum has any football cards.  So I have a goal to get as many Brad Sorensen cards into my collection as possible.  There aren't too many.  They were all produced in 2013and that's it.  My collection is small right now, as no trader seems to have them and my budget has mostly been spent trying to complete some sets.  But I daresay that I am probably the only collector out there with a Brad Sorensen PC, so keep me in mind if you run across any.

Oddly enough, come next week, three other fellow T-Birds are likely going to join Sorensen in the NFL, becoming the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th SUU players to be drafted.  Miles Killebrew and James Cowser--who broke Jared Allen's all-time FCS sack record--could go as high as the 2nd or 3rd round, while Leshaun Sims should have his name called before all is said and done.  I might just be looking for cards of them as they come, too.  And who knows, maybe my alma mater will become a football school, after all.  I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Another Contest! (But not mine)

For any readers who don't read P-Town Tom's blog, Waiting 'Til Next Year, he has a cool contest going on right now.  Check it out.  And with any luck, we Cubs fans might not have to wait much longer...9 wins and counting, but don't worry, I'm not counting any more until they hatch.  Mixed metaphor much?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Football Grab Box at the LCS

A while back, I went to one of the local card shops with my boys.  Yes, there are 2 brick and mortar card shops in my county.  Surprisingly, I rarely step foot in either one of them.  One of them is enormous, but it is mostly a music memorabilia store.  There is a substantial sports section with lots of cool autographed jerseys and bats and such, but there are fewer cards than at most smaller shops.  The big disadvantage, however, is that this store is located in the mall, and is pricier than I would like.  The other card shop is smaller and more affordable, but I really only deal with proprietor when I have a table at his bi-annual card show.  Most of the time, I find he's a little unpleasant to work with and quite condescending.  I would like to think that he knows me by now, but he still just assumes that I'm one of those guys who collected as a kid in the 90s and is under the impression that my collection is a cash cow.  I would also like to think that I understand the hobby a little, but when I try to talk cards or ask questions, I feel like he treats me like a naive kid who has to have things explained slowly to him.  That's two things I would like to think.  I guess I would like to think too much.

Anyway, I walked into the LCS in the mall looking for a specific card for a trading partner.  I thought I had it, but I was having a hard time finding it after promising it in a trade.  (Side note: I ended up buying it off of COMC so I could honor my deal, then I found it in another box 2 days later.  D'oh!)  They didn't have what I was looking for, but I wound up picking up a football grab box for $5.  It said "Loaded with Stars and Rookies," but I knew that "loaded" would be an optimistic term.  But, I thought that a 400-count box full of cards for a fiver was a good deal regardless, so I took it home.  It wasn't a bad buy; I have gaps in my collection  between 1996 and 2012 and many of the cards were from that era.  I was a bit disappointed that there were zero Packers in the entire 400-count box.  But I did get to add to some PCs.  Here are the highlights of that haul.

First up is Steven Jackson.  I feel like a Steven Jackson magnet.  I should probably just start a PC because I always seem to pull his cards.  This box netted me five various Steven Jackson cards.

Another Jackson, Vincent, seems drawn to me like a magnet.  I pulled few of him in this box as well.
Here are some 90s junk wax gems.  The Pro Line Portrait on the left is former Lions lineback Michael Cofer.  I could be totally okay never adding another shirtless player to my collection, but that 1991 Pro Line Portrait set was filled with them.  The middle card is not only a punter, but a World League punter.  Such an interesting card to me.  And of course, the original dual threat QB, the inimitable Randall Cunningham.  I know that guys before him, like Fran Tarkenton, could scramble, but Randall was just as much running back as quarterback.  Did you ever play Tecmo Super Bowl with the Eagles?  I rest my case.

Next up are the rookies.  It was loaded with them, remember?  These rookies actually weren't bad pulls.  Chad Pennington was a solid, underrated QB for a time in the NFL.  This is the first Pennington rookie and first Skybox Dominion card in my collection, and I like the look of it.

Kevin Lockett never made an impact in the NFL, but I still remember watching him dominate at Kansas State.  His son Tyler has already made a splash at the pro level.

This 1990 Fleer is Rich Gannon's RC.  It took him a long time to come around, but what a stretch he had at the end of his career.  I really like this set, with the team colored arch and silver football.  It's a classic, in my book.  Michael Crabtree has had an up-and-down pro career, but who could forget his iconic tight-wire walk into the end zone against Texas when he was at Tech?  And a rookie of a guy who would become just the 6th guy in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards is a nice addition.  This card is pretty beat up, though.  You can see the major ding in the corner.  The corners were part of the story for this box, unfortunately.

Some sets were well represented in this box, and most of them I had little to no cards from the set already.  I'm deciding whether they will be used as trade bait or as the jumping off point for building those sets.  2012 Topps Prime, 2013 Topps Archives, and 2009 Topps Chrome are among those sets.  I especially like the Topps Prime, with its thick cards and focus on action photography.  It's a bummer those Chromes scanned in so dark, though.

Despite the absence of Packers, I did manage to pull some PC guys.  First up are some All-Decade guys.  Anthony Munoz and Carl Banks (playing basketball!) represent the 1980s.

Cornelius Bennett represents the 90s.

And Curtis Martin represents the 2000s.  There was a Torry Holt as well that apparently I failed to scan, and I'm too lazy to scan right now.

Topping it off was a PC guy that I may be the only guy in the world to collect: Brad Sorensen.  I'll have a post about Brad Sorensen another time, but this box produced a SAGE card for me.

I'll probably venture another grab box from the LCS some time.  Most of these cards are going to be trade bait, but it's always fun to obtain something new, right?