Thursday, March 15, 2018

Card Madness 2018: Let's Get It Started!

I started this blog in 2016 and one of the first things I did was to create a Card Madness series to match up with March Madness.  In a nutshell, I put all 32 NFL teams in a bracket and pitted random cards from my collection representing each team against each other until we had declared a true NFL card champion.  The result?  A wildly popular blog series that averaged about 11 pages views per round.  Okay, so maybe it wasn't wildly popular.  But, hey, I was just starting out and had never made a trade and I'm frankly surprised anybody stumbled upon this little blog.  If you're curious, the Raiders beat the Vikings in the final round.  I skipped last year, but I feel like it's time to do a Card Madness tournament again--baseball style. 

When I ran this little tourney through the first time, I had set criteria and I gave each card a score.  That was a little too much work.  This year, I won't be scoring the cards, but I will be looking at roughly the same criteria and making less objective judgment calls.  That may be less transparent, but I don't feel like spending as time as I did before, it's just for fun anyway, and I want to play with my cards how I want to play with them.  The general criteria for selecting a winner are
  1. The player featured on the card.
  2. The design/overall look of the set.
  3. The photo on the card.
  4. The back of the card.
  5. Any extras that might break a tie.
The bracket was created using all 30 MLB teams and will be divided by league.  One team in each needed to have a bye, so I selected reigning champs Houston for the AL and my Cubbies from the NL to get a free pass.  The bracket can be seen here.   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.

Got it?  So let's to our first four matchups.

Round 1: Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen #139 Jason Kipnis vs. 1996 Ultra #392 Melido Perez

First, we’ll look at the players.  Kipnis has been one of the better 2nd basemen in the Majors for the past few years.  Melido Perez had one pretty good year in 1992, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and pitching 10 complete games.  Other than that, he’s better-known to me for having a brother, Pasqual, who also pitched in the Majors.  The card design is an easy pick for me here, too.  I may be in the minority, but I like Gypsy Queen’s designs, and 2015 was one of my favorites.  1996 Ultra, on the other hand, is the probably the least interesting set that Ultra ever produced.  There is nothing that catches the eye, and the thin foil lettering is hard to read.  GQ hands down on this one.  Combine the card design and the player, and the Indians win this round going away.

Winner: Indians

Round 1: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies

1996 Ultra #535 Mike Kingery vs. 2015 Topps #587 Daniel Descalso

Oof.  96 Ultra again already.  I have a lot of this set because I obtained the complete thing in a collection I bought off a guy a few years ago.  I have broken it up into my trade boxes and sent some away since then, but much of it is still hanging around in my collection.  2015 Topps, however, is beautiful.  It’s bold and beautiful and completely unique among flagship sets.  The purple of the Rockies looks especially good in this set.  As far as players go, I honestly have no idea who Mike Kingery is.  Every time I see it, I think Jeff King (I know him), but Kingery is a mystery.  A quick baseball-reference search tells me that he had a pretty long career and a couple of decent years, but mostly hung out just above the Mendoza line.  The Pirates were his last stop.  Descalso isn’t the greatest player either, in fact, he’s probably not even as good as Kingery, if I look at the numbers.  I’ve always kind of liked him, though, because of his name.  “Descalso” means “barefoot” in Portuguese, so I’ve always had fun thinking of him as “Shoeless” Daniel.  The players are about a wash, so I have to look at the way the purple pops on the Descalso card.

Winner: Rockies

Round 1: Minnesota Twins vs. Toronto Blue Jays

2015 Topps #399 Josmil Pinto vs. 2017 Topps #82 Aaron Sanchez

Pinto only played in 84 Big League games.  Aaron Sanchez’s card touts his league-leading ERA.  I think we can settle the debate on the better player.  2015 Topps is more colorful and interesting than 2017.  It is superior.  So let’s examine the photos.  I like the All-Star Game patch on Pinto’s jersey; Minneapolis hosted the 2014 Midsummer Classic.  And is he holding his batting gloves?  When was this picture taken?  The Sanchez has a really interesting detail to me: I like the blue stitching on his glove.  This is close call, so I’m going to be very subjective here.  The crowd in the background of Pinto’s photo and the speckly color of the border become very busy and the card feels crowded.  Sanchez, however, has just the wall in the background of a borderless card.  The feeling of simple clarity that the Sanchez card gives me beats out the jumbled colors of Pinto.

Winner: Blue Jays

We'll continue Round 1 later.  I may not keep up with the tourney perfectly, but I will try to have the Card Madness Sweet 16 before the real Sweet 16 begins next week.  Let's see which team has what it take to come out on top!