Tuesday, March 31, 2020

State of the Set: 2013 Triple Play

I feel that there are too many sets on my wantlist that have been sitting there for years while I slowly chip away at them. This year I noticed that a lot of those sets are well within striking distance this year, so I've tried to swing some trades for set needs while focusing my recent Sportlots purchase on sets as well. We'll see how many sets I can kill before the year is out.

For the past few years, I have written a post that summarizes my set completion quests for the year. I still plan to do that for 2020, but I also decided to give a progress report for sets that I'm actively acquiring cards for along the way. I thought this might be more interesting than writing one giant post that tries to tie all the different cards from a trade or a purchase together.

Today we'll look at 2013 Panini Triple Play

Card courtesy of TCDB trade with FSCGrad777

Why I'm collecting this set: Some of you are probably asking right now, "Seriously, why are you collecting this set?" It may be one of the worst sets of all-time. Actually, I'm collecting it because I bought a case of it for about $30. I gave a box to each of my sons, a nephew, a niece, and a bunch of packs to my kid's t-ball team that I coached. Of course, I opened a box for myself. From that box, I put together most of the cartoony base set and a couple of the insert sets. This "When I Was a Kid..." subset is short-printed, however, and only came a couple per box. If it weren't for the fun of chasing down these SPs, I'm not sure I would have even kept the base set at all. I have to admit, though, as bad as this set is, this subset has been fun.

How long has it been on my wantlist (roughly)?: Well, I bought it about the time I was coaching t-ball, which would have been about 3 years ago.

Current state of set completion: The card shown here makes 98 of 100. However, I have two cards already purchased from COMC, ready to be shipped. Barring any shipping disaster, I have to consider this set complete.

Current needs: #91 (Mike Trout), #98 (Stephen Strasburg), both purchased, but not in-hand.

Prognosis: I don't know when I'll request my next shipment from COMC, but it should be this year. I'd say this set will definitely be complete by December.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

2020 Opening Day, but Closed

Well, today is Opening Day. All over the country, ballparks are opening their gates. Thousands of fans are flocking to the stadiums to witness the first pitches, hard hit balls, and double plays of the year. Baseball has returned, a harbinger of summer and good times!

Except, maybe not. Opening Day has been postponed indefinitely, a happening that is tantamount to canceling Christmas to many of us sports fans. And forget the idea that today marks the beginning of summer fun; it's snowing outside my door as I write this. No, today has not gone as I anticipated a couple of weeks ago. My tradition is to bust a box of Topps Opening Day on Opening Day. I pre-ordered it and received it a few days before the entire world shut down. My first inclination was to keep it until the season started for real, but I still haven't added any 2020 cards to my collection and I felt the need for a bit of pack ripping fun. So, I started in on the box. I haven't opened everything in yet, but let me show you my first 2020 cardboard experience.

Here is the first pack of 2020 cards I've had in my hand. This isn't the most exciting pack, but I'm not worried about that because I buy the Opening Day box each year just expecting to build the set out of it and find some interesting inserts. Walker Buehler is the star of this pack for me. Mascot cards are an Opening Day staple, but they're not my thing, so I just enjoy the fun of them.

But then, on my 3rd pack, I see this.

Uh-oh. Doubles of an insert? I have never encountered that in my Opening Day boxes in the past. That might not bode well for the collation of this box, and it possibly threatens my ability to complete the set in one box. It's still too early to tell, but this isn't the best sign I could hope for. On the other hand, the double is of Raymond, everybody's favorite, um, thing? Well, okay, I don't know what he is, but I do know that everyone collects Rays, so I should easily find a trading partner for this. Well, I guess I'm not too sure about that either.

This is starting to remind me of the last two baseball boxes I've busted. You may recall that I picked up two hobby boxes of Big League last year. The collation was so bad that I ended up with nearly identical boxes. The good news was that I beat the odds, receiving an autograph in each box, when there was no guaranteed hit in the product. And then it turned out that both autos were Rays. It was eerie how similar those boxes were, and here I am, doubling up on the Rays' mascot after just 3 packs. *Cue Twilight Zone theme song.*

When all is said and done, if I have the complete base set and some fun inserts to put in my collection, I'll be happy with Opening Day. From what I've seen, the Dugout Peeks will probably be my favorite insert set of this release, but they are longer odds, so I probably won't see more than one. I'm looking forward to seeing which one it will be.

I hope you are all finding a way to enjoy your baseball-less, potentially cold and snowy, not-so-Opening Day!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

This has certainly been a week to remember. For many of us, our daily lives are 100% different from this time last week. For me, I've been handed the opportunity to ply my skills with education tech tools and place all my content online. In our school, at least, we found ourselves well-equipped to make a transition, even though we might not have been prepared.

And then this happened yesterday:

It's a pandemic! It's an earthquake! It's a . . . PANQUAKE? I don't live in Salt Lake, but we are about 30 miles south of the epicenter and it definitely shook our house. It was just after 7:00 am. Everyone in our house was awake, but nobody was out of bed yet, so we all felt the swaying while lying down.

Meanwhile, only one major sport seems to still be rolling: the NFL. The new NFL year began this week, and with it has come a flurry of major transactions. I heard this week that the owners weren't happy with the league's decision to move forward with free agency, claiming that it would be bad optics for news of players receiving multi-million dollar contracts to break while many people were facing financial hardships due to the CDC's social distancing guidelines. Personally, I don't have a problem with it. I think people love their sports and understand that players are going to be paid more than the average person anyway. Whether or not you agree with the amount of money pro athletes are paid, it's a widely accepted fact that they make a lot.

So we are less than a week into free agency, and like Salt Lake county, everything is being shaken up. First, we have quarterbacks finding new teams. You know what I'm talking about here.

That's right. Case Keenum has found a new home. These three signal callers are all moving on. Teddy Bridgewater looks to be the favorite to start in Carolina. Keenum and Marcus Mariota will most likely be backups who are expected to push the incumbent starters. Keenum is headed to Cleveland, behind Baker Mayfield, and Mariota is on his way to Vegas, hoping to pull the same move on Derek Carr that Ryan Tannehill pulled on Mariota himself last year.

In a rare player-for-player trade, DeAndre Hopkins and David Johnson swapped places. This move has been much criticized, and you can count me as one who doesn't understand what Houston is doing. The team has seemingly been in "win now" mode, parting with high draft picks to trade for the likes of Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills last year. It seemed that the team was intent on sacrificing some future development to bring in the pieces they needed to contend now. Then they trade a top 3 reciever while they have a young superstar quarterback with years ahead of him? For a guy who has been one of the biggest disappointments in the league in each of the last three years? I just don't get it.

That's not the only trade to happen this week. Indianapolis gave a first-rounder to San Francisco for DeForest Buckner. The Eagles are hoping to shore up their secondary by trading for Darius Slay. The Bills traded for WR Stefon Diggs. And a year after signing former Super Bowl hero Nick Foles, the Jaguars shipped him to Chicago.

Some big-name tight ends have moved on in free agency. Austin Hooper was considered the top tight end on the market; he signed with Cleveland. The other three are past their primes, but are still notable signings. Greg Olsen is headed to Seattle. Legendary Cowboy Jason Witten will likely end his career with the Raiders. Jimmy Graham will stay in the NFC North, leaving Green Bay for Chicago.

A couple of linebackers that I had an interest in have already signed with new teams. Former BYU linebacker Kyle van Noy is leaving New England to play for division rival Miami. Last year's starter at middle linebacker in Green Bay, Blake Martinez will be manning the middle for the Giants next year. This was no surprise, as Packers' GM Brian Gutekunst had already indicated he was looking to upgrade from Martinez.

A pair of high-priced defenders also found new homes. Cornerback Byron Jones is also heading to Miami, joining van Noy on the Dolphins. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is heading to Jones's old home, Dallas.

Of course, none of these signings are the marquee signings of the week. A future Hall of Fame quarterback changed teams, after spending his entire career with one franchise.

Philip Rivers is leaving the Chargers for the Colts!

Okay, okay. The big news is really Tom Brady splitting with Bill Belichick and heading south for Tampa Bay. I'm interested to see how Brady fares without Belichick and with Father Time as his constant companion, but with the addition of having more dangerous weapons around him than he has had in recent years.

Not all big moves have been new acquisitions, though. The Rams made headlines earlier today when they released Todd Gurley. Gurley was joined by Clay Matthews in his release from LA. Rams receiver Brandin Cooks is rumored to be the next to go. The Rams are certainly shaking things up in Southern California.

Before I go, I want to point out that things like this virus and earthquakes seem to happen arbitrarily. What isn't arbitrary is receiving a package of Free Friday gifts from Brian at Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitary. This week, I received just such a package.

I claimed a quartet of cards to fit my ROY and ASG MVP collections.

And once again, Brian sent along a BYU card in the package. Thanks once again for the Free Stuff, Brian!

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Franchise 9: Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks have an interesting history. They joined the league in 1976 and struggled through about 30 years of limited success. In 2003, they had their first season with double-digit wins, and have since been one of the winningest franchises in the NFL. Since 2003, the Seahawks have missed the playoffs only four times. They have three Super Bowl appearances and one victory. They were within inches of a second title in that span. It's not surprising, then, that five of the nine players chosen here have been active with the team in the past 15 years. Heck, two of them still play in Seattle.

1. Russell Wilson, QB (2013 Score)

It didn't take Russell Wilson long to establish himself as the best signal caller in franchise history. In fact, after just eight seasons, Wilson already ranks fourth in team history in Pro Football Reference's approximate value ranking. He leads the team in all passing categories and is still going strong. A strong argument could be made that he is getting stronger. He has never received All-Pro consideration, yet he is quietly making a case as the best quarterback in the league.

2. Shaun Alexander, RB (2006 Fleer The Franchise)

Shaun Alexander was a quiet performer and never got quite the attention in Seattle that Marshawn Lynch did. In fact, this spot was initially going to belong to Lynch, but Alexander was not going to be denied. Alexander is the team's leading rusher, outgaining Lynch by 3,000 yards and 43 TDs. While Lynch had his "Beast Quake" run that made him a national sensation, Alexander has the 2005 NFL MVP award. That season Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns. That single-season mark alone would put him #6 of the franchise all-time.

3. Steve Largent, WR (1984 Topps)

It seems like records are broken constantly in the NFL, especially the passing types. Today's pass-friendly rules sure help receivers and quarterbacks put up big sparkly numbers. So it always amazes me when I look and see records set in the 80s that are still standing. Steve Largent hauled in 819 passes for 13,089 yards and 100 touchdowns for the Seahawks. All are still franchise records. And it's not even close. The second-place receiver on the list trails by over 250 catches. Largent's numbers are more than triple the closest active player on the list. When he retired, he was tops not only in Seahawk history, but NFL history as well. The kind of production he provided in his era was nothing short of tremendous.

4. Walter Jones, T (2007 Topps Chrome Refractor)

Walter Jones was a Seahawk lifer. After being drafted by the team in 1997, Jones went on to spend 12 years with the franchise. In those 12 years, he received nine Pro Bowl bids and four All-Pro nominations while protecting Matt Hasselbeck's blindside and helping to pave the way for Shaun Alexander's historic run through the first decade of the 2000s. Jones was named to the All-2000s Team, the Hall of Fame, and recently voted one of the offensive tackles on the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

5. Cortez Kennedy, DT (1990 Pro Set)

The Seahawks used the #3 overall pick in the 1990 Draft on Cortez Kennedy. They started reaping the benefits early in his career. In his third season in the league, Kennedy won the Defensive Player of the Year Award on the strength of his 14 sacks. It was the first of three straight All-Pro seasons. By the time he retired, Kennedy would add eight Pro Bowls to his resume. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2012.

6. Bobby Wagner, LB (2012 Score)

Seattle did a fantastic job in the 2012 Draft. They found Russell Wilson in the third round. Wagner was their second round pick, and he has been just as good on the other side of the ball. After eight seasons in the league, Wagner is the team's all-time leader in tackles. He's not an edge rusher, so he doesn't have many sacks. But he still ranks second on the team in tackles for loss. Since he came into the league in 2012, no other player has made more tackles. He already has four All-Pro Teams to his name, and there are probably more to come.

7. Richard Sherman, CB (2014 Topps Valor)

In seven seasons with the Seahawks, Richard Sherman intercepted 32 passes and received credit for an insane 99 pass breakups. From 2011-2017 (Sherman's time in Seattle), he had more PBUs than any other player in the league. Shutdown corners never seem to spend too long at the top of the league, but Sherman did have his time as the premier corner. He was named to four straight Pro Bowls and three straight All-Pro teams.

8. Kenny Easley, S (1986 Topps)

Kenny Easley had the same number of interceptions as Sherman. It took him 16 fewer games. Just as Sherman was the premier corner for a time, Easley had his time as the premier safety. From 1983-1985, he was selected to three consecutive All-Pro teams. During that span, he intercepted 19 passes. Easley was named to the 1980s All-Decade Team and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

9. Earl Thomas, S (2011 Topps)

Earl Thomas ranks just below Sherman and Easley on the team's interception list, but his AV is higher than both. Thomas also reeled off three straight All-Pro seasons, from 2012-2014. During the Seahawks' Super Bowl year, he was a one-man wrecking crew. That year he picked off five passes, broke up nine others, and made 105 stops as flew around the field. He made the Pro Bowl in six out of seven years from 2011-2017 before injuries started to slow him down and he left Seattle. While he was there, he was arguably the heart of the Legion of Boom defense.

Seattle's best-known position unit, the Legion of Boom, is well-represented here. Three of the Seahawks' Franchise 9 came from that squad. In the three year span from 2010-2012, Seattle managed to draft Earl Thomas (2010), Richard Sherman (2011), Bobby Wagner (2012), and Russell Wilson (2012), among others who played important roles in the team's rise to quasi-dynasty. This team also had some franchise greats who were tough exclusions. Some players were long-time accumulators--like Jacob Green, Matt Hasselbeck, or Eugene Robinson--who just didn't have the same burst of dominance that some other shorter-tenured players had. In the end, the team's overall performance and the stardom of a few of those players helped win them a spot on this team.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Cards on Cards on Cards on Cards

Whenever I start considering myself as having a big-time collection, that notion gets destroyed in some way. Sometimes that humility comes in the form of Collecting Cutch showing off insane amounts of 1/1 Cutch cards or Daniel, from It's Like Having My Own Card Shop magnificent specimens in his favorite card countdown. Seriously, I see guys show off their collections on their blogs and they have multiple cards that fall into the "I will never own that" category for me. Despite the way I phrased that, I'm not complaining about this; I'm very secure in my low-end tendencies. It just blows my mind sometimes the about of "Whoa!" that some people have in their possession.

The other way I am astonished by other people's collections is in the sheer number of cards they must have. This was demonstrated to me just last week when I received a stack of cards upon cards from Cards on Cards. This was an out of the blue package, probably another instance of Kerry not being able to rid his house of Cubs fast enough. He sent me a bubble mailer of 88 cards in total. The amazing thing to me was that of those 88 cards, there were only four cards I didn't need. That's a 95% success rate with 84 cards I didn't have before--not bad for an unexpected mailer. This clues me in to the staggering number of cards some people have at their fingertips. If I were to send every single St. Louis Cardinal card I have in my trade box, I wouldn't even match the number that Kerry sent to me. And then to have nearly all of them be new to Kerry--well, that's just not going to happen. So I wonder: just how many cards does one have to have to pull off a feat like that, to have the ability to pick and choose 80+ cards for a person that they don't have already? It must be more than I have, I'd guess.

So let's have a look-see at the highlights of Kerry's bubble mailer.

Kerry first caught my eye with a shiny Brett Favre on the top of one of the team bags. The gold border and embossed Green Bay logo in the middle made me think it was another cool 90s insert, but this is just a subset in the 1997 Donruss Preferred base set. Very cool card, insert or no.

Aside from those two football cards, the rest of the package was entirely Cubbies.

There were parallels. 1997 Topps is generally icky, but that Brian McRae Chrome refractor quickly jumped into my list of favorite cards. You have a runner starting down the third baseline (is he stealing home?), the batter in the batter's box in the frame, and you make a refractor of it?! Beautiful. 2009 Topps is represented by a couple of retail store-exclusive parallels: the black border Fukudome is Wal-Mart, the throwback Topps logo Soto is Target.

Why stop at parallels when you can have inserts? My favorite card here is, of course, the Javy Baez. I would like to know how that same group of people behind Clark on his 2018 Opening Day card managed to gather together again for the picture on Clark's 2019 Opening Day card. Must have taken a great deal of planning.

TCMA and Conlon are good for some old-timers that are hard to find on cardboard. From left to right, top then bottom, we have Walker Cooper, Riggs Stephenson, Chuck Tanner, Dick Drott, Pat Malone, and Hank Sauer. Of these players, only Sauer was already represented in my collection. I want to know what Cooper is doing with his right hand in the picture. It seems like an awkward position for a catcher.

These cards all caught my eye as some of the first cards of big names after they joined the Cubs. Ramirez appeared on updated cards in 2003--the year before this card--but the rest are all from the same year as their Cubs debut.

There were so many cards that I was able to construct a starting lineup of my favorite Cubs in the package using cards that I haven't shown yet. The roster of My-Favorite-Players-from-This-Package-Whose-Cards-Have-Not-Already-Been-Used-in-This-Post consists of:
  • Greg Maddux, pitcher
  • Jody Davis, catcher
  • Anthony Rizzo, 1st base
  • Ryne Sandberg, 2nd base
  • Aramis Ramirez, 3rd base
  • Javier Baez, shortstop
  • Andre Dawson, outfield
  • Doug Dascenzo, outfield
  • Jason Heyward, outfield
Apologies to Ernie Banks, but Javy is my current favorite and since I have never actually seen Ernie play, Javy goes into the shortstop slot. Mark Grace, my favorite all-time Cub, was not in the package so Rizzo was an easy second choice. The outfield goes in order of safest on the roster to last one in.

Thanks for the great surprise, Kerry!

Aaah, rosin bags and Wrigley ivy. Is it baseball season yet?

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

State of the Set: 2016 Topps Wal-Mart Marketside

I feel that there are too many sets on my wantlist that have been sitting there for years while I slowly chip away at them. This year I noticed that a lot of those sets are well within striking distance this year, so I've tried to swing some trades for set needs while focusing my recent Sportlots purchase on sets as well. We'll see how many sets I can kill before the year is out.

For the past few years, I have written a post that summarizes my set completion quests for the year. I still plan to do that for 2020, but I also decided to give a progress report for sets that I'm actively acquiring cards for along the way. I thought this might be more interesting than writing one giant post that tries to tie all the different cards from a trade or a purchase together.

Today we'll look at 2016 Topps Wal-Marketside.

These cards from a recent Sportslot Box order

Why I'm collecting this set: It was the first food issue set after a hiatus that seemed like many years. It was fun to pull cards out of my take-and-bake pizza, and the set design looks nice enough. I like that it is distinct from any other Topps product. It would have been easy for Topps to slap a Wal-Mart logo on its 2016 Flagship smoke, but kudos to them for creating something different.

How long has it been on my wantlist (roughly)?: This set went onto my wantlist immediately upon its release four years ago. It's not one that I have pursued too hard.

Current state of set completion: I have 41 of 50 cards, for 82% completion.

Current needs: #8 (Miguel Cabrera), #10 (David Ortiz), #20 (Noah Syndergaard), #24 (Bryce Harper), #33 (Aaron Nola), #41 (Kris Bryant), #44 (Albert Pujols), #45 (Clayton Kershaw), #47 (Corey Seager)

Prognosis: It's conceivable that I could cross this one off before year's end, but since it has never been a high priority, I don't know that I'll reach it. Still, with single digits to go, I might just have to hunt down those last cards with a little more gusto to get this set out of the way.

Monday, March 2, 2020

So Shines a Good Deed

. . . in a weary world. That famous line from Willy Wonka Shakespeare is my introduction to the kindness and generosity of my fellow card bloggers. I suppose that my world isn't all that weary or dreary or even teary, but a good deed will always brighten the day. In the past weeks, I have been the recipient of 3 PWEs from bloggers who were just giving things away.

The first was Jon "Penny" Sleeves, who started a Free Stuff Friday campaign. As a side note, "Free Stuff Friday" has a familiar ring to it because I allow my students "Free Seat Friday" as a reward for good behavior throughout the week. I like alliteration.

From his first Free Stuff Friday, I claimed some great early 80s cards. My favorite is probably the 1980 James Lofton, but I'm biased toward the green and gold. I do have to point out the bad case of helmet hair that Nolan Cromwell is suffering from.

Following Jon's lead, Brian, from Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary, began his own Free Stuff Friday. One card he posted caught my eye. Andrelton Simmons is not an official PC player, but I do like his glove a whole lot, and this red parallel Stadium Club looked pretty good to me.

It didn't arrive on its own. Brian also sent me some BYU related material. What I love most about these cards is that all the players are featured in the royal blue.

The most interesting items of Brian's envelope, however, weren't cards of athletes. There was a 2009 A&G of the school's namesake, "Brother Brigham," and 1986 BYU baseball pocket schedule. So I have to ask: How did you come into possession of a BYU baseball pocket schedule, from three decades and half a country away, Brian?

Finally, I got my prize from John's Big Fun Game (1st Edition). There wasn't much action in my round, but that was okay by me. I've followed all the picks that were made in both of John's BFGs, and I think I ended up with the best prize for me. Of the six cards in the prize, three fit in easily to my Rookie of the Year collection.

The other three are solid players. I like the college card of Frank Thomas because he also played football for the Tigers. As a Cubs fan, I don't love Christian Yelich, but I have to admit that he is as good as they come over the past couple of years.

Included in the prize package was a little bonus surprise. You can't argue with a vintage 1964 Hall of Famers for a free surprise!

Thanks to Jon, Brian, and John for the great stuff. I've truly never found a more generous breed of collectors than bloggers.