Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2007 Upper Deck

For me, 2007 was pre-baseball card blogging. There were some blogs about but I didn't discover them until early 2008. So I didn't have a chance to see what others thought of this set, nor did I get a chance to express my opinion. At the time, I remember not being real impressed by the 2007 edition of Upper Deck, but I've been looking at a bunch of cards from the set over the last few days and I think it may be one of my favorite Upper Deck designs of the decade.

If I were a set collector I'd probably complain about the size of the set, 1,024 cards. This is smaller than the 2006, 1,200 card behemoth, but still a large set. I'm a team and individual player collector. A larger set should mean more Phillies and Astros in the base set.Unlike most years of Upper Deck, this set had borders on the two long sides. Most years, the cards either had a border at the bottom of the card or no border at all. I think this border works well either in the vertical format.
Or in the horizontal format. There wasn't much foil on the front, just the logo and the player name. What is important about the foil is that you can easily read the player's name. In many Upper Deck sets, the foil player's name gets lost in the photograph. The team name and the player position are in the borders and are also easy to read.
I think they did a pretty good job of matching the photo to the orientation of the card. The photos are crisp and almost always well framed within the borders. Here are some of my favorite cards from the set.
Remember Travis Chick? Probably not. Chick's entire ML career consisted of 5 innings where he gave up 7 hits, 10 walks and had an ERA of 12.6. This card seems to have captured his entire career.
This is a great action shot. I think the set has a good mixture of on-field action and posed shots. There are also no subset cards, with the exception of checklist cards. These feature a player on the front and a team checklist on the back.
Izturis makes a dive back into first. A great player close-up.
Chipper making a throw across his body. I think this is another well framed shot.
This may be my favorite card in the set. Clearly Albert got a hold of one here. The pitcher doesn't even seem to have completed his follow through as he turns to watch the ball on its way outta here.
A little bit of catcher ballet.
There were were two cards of Phillies wearing green jerseys. A spring training game on St. Patrick's day perhaps?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Amarillo Texas

I'm in Amarillo Texas today on business. Surely I can get a blog post out of this. Well I did but it's not as interesting as I'd hoped it would be. Amarillo is about as far from Houston as I can get and still be in Texas. How many major league players were born here?Turns out, according to, none.

Current Royals manager Trey Hillman was born here in 1963. Although he played three years in the minors (1985-1987) he never made it to the bigs.
If Victor Black makes it to the majors, he'll be the first Amarillo player to do so.
Black was the #1 draft pick for the Pirates in 2009. He played in single A ball last year, posting a 1-2 record with 1 save in 13 games. He doesn't seem to have any stats so far in 2010.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Song of the Week - Elevation of Love by Esbjorn Svensson Trio

It's another lazy post. My daughter brought this home from the library one day and said I should listen. She was right. Her taste in music surprises me sometimes. I don't know anything about these guys but this is a great album. Nice listening for a Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - Kick Ass

As those of you more hip than I am know, this movie is based on a comic book of the same name. I haven't clue as to how well the movie follows the comic books but I hear that the comic is violent and profane. So is the movie.Not to say that it wasn't entertaining. It is. It's by no means a perfect movie. It bounces from being a teen-age romantic comedy to a campy farce to an ultra-violent bloodbath and back again, somewhat disconcertingly. It doesn't miss too many origin story cliches (although that is part of the point, I think). I would not take the whole family to see this, unless you've got a family of serial killers who swear like sailors. It has a well deserved R rating. The trailers and TV ads are misleading, playing up the comedy aspects.

Nicholas Cage plays Big Daddy. It wasn't clear from the trailer I saw that he's even in the movie. There is nothing comedic about his character. Chloe Moretz plays his 11-year old killing machine daughter. Not many laughs from her either. We'll be seeing more of her in the future, I'm sure, although I hope she doesn't turn into the next Lindsey Lohan. The kids are all unknowns (at least to me) and are serviceable as teenagers and provide most of the humor. 20-year-old Aaron Johnson plays the Kick Ass character with the right amount of bravado and terror. He's been acting since he was 11. We'll next see him playing a young John Lennon in a movie called Nowhere Boy.

If you're old enough to get into an R rated movie, I'd say go and see it. If you don't like violence or profanity, take a pass. You've been warned.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Art of Bunting

Bunting is an important part of the game but by my observation there are far fewer baseball cards featuring a bunt than any other kind of plate appearance. Bunting situations come up in many games, where a player is asked to give himself up to advance a runner. And of course, some players are known to bunt for a hit, sometimes to keep a hitting streak alive. Here are some of my favorite cards featuring gives a stat for sacrifice bunts but I don't think they have any statistics on how many bunt singles a player has. In his career, Alomar laid down 148 sac bunts, amounting to 1.4% of his plate appearances.
This is probably more of a swinging bunt rather than a straight sacrifice. Biggio was known for bunting for hits. He put down 101 sac bunts, 0.8% of his plate appearances.
Brett Butler is known for bunting for hits and I have more cards of Butler bunting than of any other player. As for sac bunts, he had 147, 1.5% of his plate appearances, just ahead of Alomar.
Here's another card featuring Butler bunting.
I wouldn't say that Crawford was known for bunting but I like this card. 0.6% of his plate appearances resulted in sac bunts.
My recollection is that Lenny bunted a lot but only 0.5% (25 total) of his plate appearances were sac bunts. Of course, Dykstra was generally a lead off guy and wouldn't be asked to sacrifice too often.
Clearly Ken Griffey wasn't being paid to sacrifice bunt. He has only 8 in his long career. A sac fly was more expected, with 101, 0.9% of his plate appearances.
I don't get to see Ichiro play much but my impression is that he gets a lot of bunt singles. Not may sacrifices however, only 24 or 0.4% of his plate appearances.
The only cards I have of a pitcher bunting are of Greg Maddox. Of course, most pitcher cards feature the player doing what he does best, which is pitch. Maddox has 180 sac bunts during his career, a full 10% of his plate appearances. By contrast, he only has 2 sac flies. I wonder how those happened.
Considering that he's in a batting cage, I'd guess that McGee was practicing bunting on this card.
Mouton looks pretty desperate in this photo. He must be trying to bunt against a guy with a 100 mph fastball.
Here's another guy who wasn't being paid to bunt. He only has 17 sac bunts in his career and I'll bet he didn't try for a bunt hit very often. So this is a rare photo of Sosa. He only has 17 sac bunts against 78 sac flies.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Song of the Week - A Sorta Fairytale by Tori Amos

It was getting down to the wire for me to pick a song for this week and then this Tori Amos song cycled up on iTunes. This song is from her 2002 album Scarlet's Walk. I really like Tori and I really like this song but this is one creepy video. I guess I got the meaning at the end (two people meet and become whole) but there was no clue until the last few seconds as to what the message was supposed to be. But it is a great song.

On my way up north, up on the Ventura
I pulled back the hood and I was talking to you
And I knew then it would be a life long thing
But I didn't know that we, we could break a silver lining

And I'm so sad
Like a good book I can't put this day back
A sorta fairytale with you
A sorta fairytale with you

Things you said that day up on the one-oh-one
The girl had come undone, I tried to downplay it
With a bet about us, you said that you'd take it
As long as I could, I could not erase it

And I'm so sad
Like a good book I can't put this day back
A sorta fairytale with you
A sorta fairytale with you

And I ride along side
And I rode along side you then
And I rode along side
Till you lost me there in the open road
And I rode along side
Till the honey spread itself so thin
For me to break your bread
For me to take your word
I had to steal it

And I'm so sad
Like a good book I can't put this day back
A sorta fairytale with you
A sorta fairytale with you
I could pick back up whenever I feel

Down New Mexico way
Something about the open road
I knew that he was
Looking for some Indian blood
And find a little in you
Find a little in me
We may be on this road
But we're just impostors in this country you know
So we go along and we said we'd fake it
Feel better with Oliver Stone
Till I almost smacked him
Seemed right that night
I don't know what takes hold
Out there in the desert cold
These guys think they must
Try and just get over on us

And I'm so sad
like a good book I can't put this day back
A sorta fairytale with you
A sorta fairytale with you

And I was riding by
Riding along side
For a while till you lost me
And I was riding by
Riding along till you lost me
Till you lost me in the rear view
You lost me I said

Way up north I took my day
All in all was a pretty nice day
And I put the hood right back where
You could taste heaven perfectly
Feel out the summer breeze
Didn't know when we'd be back
And I, I don't, didn't think
We'd end up like, like this

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 9 Collector's Choice

I was recently featured on Phungo's site in his Phungo 5 feature where he asked about my current obsession with 1998 cards. I recommended the 1998 Collector's Choice as a set to collect. This was a 530 card set issued by Upper Deck for several years in the mid-1990s. You old timers may remember that Upper Deck's slogan in 1989 was "The Collector's Choice". 1998 was the last year for Collector's Choice. In 1999, they issued UD Choice and after that branched out into a number of lower priced sets. The 1998 version was available in 14-card packs for $1.29, a pretty reasonable price. There were a number of inserts which weren't too difficult to obtain at that price. Here are some of the base cards.The base cards had either a white or gray border. I could never figure out a pattern. The backs featured another photo and player stats. The cards are glossy front and back with no foil.
The first 10 cards were the Cover Glory subset. These were also available in a 5"x7" version. I've got 9 of the 10 of the large versions but I can't remember how they were distributed. I think they were a mail order item. I wonder what happened to the other one?
Rookie Class was another subset. The circular thing in the bottom left was also featured on the regular Upper Deck set in 1998, only in silver foil. This subset was also available as a serial-numbered (to 500) insert in Series 2 packs with "Prime Choice Reserve" foil stamped on the card.
Another subset featured catchers.
You Crash The Game was a contest. Note the date range (August 27-30). If Travis Lee hit a home run during those date you could send in the card along with $2.00 and get a "Special high quality redemption card". I've never seen one of those.
Evolution Revolution was a 28-card insert in Series 1 (inserted 1:13). The front featured a full-bleed photo with no text.
The back of the card features a player jersey. The card opens up along the buttons. Inside is another player photo and some player information.
Mini-Bobbing Heads were inserted at a rate of 1:3. You'd think I'd have one of these but I never pulled one from a pack. I just got this on eBay. You punch out the body and head and put it together. I have some of these from previous years but I've never assembled one.
Remember how much you like the Star Quest inserts in 2009 and 2010 Upper Deck. Here's where this concept got it's start. There were 4 tiers (Special Delivery, Student of the Game, Super Powers, and Superstar Domain). This Todd Hundley card is the Super Powers version. Each tier was harder to get. Special Deliver was 1:1, Student 1:21, Super Powers 1:71 and Superstar 1:145. I had each of the first 3 tiers. These were a Series 1 insert. The Super Powers version was also available as a 3.5x5 inch version in special blister packs.
The Series 2 version of Star Quest had a different design and the 4 tiers were Single, Double, Triple and Home Run. I didn't buy many Series 2 packs and had to buy this Rolen card and a Chipper Jones Single on eBay. Triples and Home Runs aren't too available.
Stick 'Ems were inserted 1:3 in packs. Hey kids, peel off the stickers and stick them to the furniture. Your Mom will love it!

Monday, April 12, 2010

1989 Topps Cecilio Guante

Normally, I wouldn't get too excited over a card like this:

1989 Topps #766 Cecilio GuanteAnd it fact I'm not all that excited, but this is the last card I needed to complete the entire 1989 Topps set.

I buy one those Fairfield repacks every few months or so. You know the ones I'm talking about. They come in a plastic box with a label something like this.

You usually get more cards then it says.

The last 3 or 4 of these that I bought had a large number of 1989 Topps cards, in unopened jumbo packs. Topps must have printed a billion of these. I noticed a few months ago, as I was cataloging what I got in the box, that I only needed one card for the whole set. I'm not really a set collector and I'm not overly fond of this set, but here I was about the complete the set without even trying. In 2008, when I started this blog, I was trying to complete the 1987 Topps set because I really like it. I'd gotten close with cards from repacks. Then a bunch of fellow bloggers helped me out.

I bought another of these last week (which had about 350 cards in it) and, as usual, there were a bunch of 1989 Topps. There were at least 60 of them. And in among them was the elusive Cecilio Guante.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Song of the Week - Let Go by Jj

Here's a new song I picked up from the Minnesota Public Radio Song of the Day podcast. All I know about Jj is that they are a Swedish band and this is their 2nd full length album called "Jj No 3". The music is haunting and the video is disturbing.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 8 Donruss Inserts

In 1998, the Donruss set had a lot going on. There were 2 full parallel sets (Gold and Silver Proofs) and 17 different inserts. Many of the inserts were serial numbered. Donruss went bankrupt after this year, not to return until 2001. Here's what I've just picked up on eBay.

1998 Donruss Rated Rookies #20 Nomar GarciaparraThis was a 30-card set. Nomar is the top card in the set. Although not serial numbered there is a parallel to this set called Medalist which are numbered to 250.

1998 Donruss Production Line #13 Jim Thome
Each of the 20 cards in this set featured a different stat. Each card was serial numbered to a different number depending on what player was on the card and what his particular stat was. This card features Power Index. Thome's Power Index was 1.001, so this card is numbered to 1,001. Production Line was an annual insert when the set returned in 2001 but this was the first time they tried the concept. The card features a holographic foil background and is quite attractive.

1998 Donruss FANtasy Team #6
A 20-card insert, numbered to 2,000. The twenty players were voted by fans on the Internet into this set. The Fan Club logo will reappear in a set called Donruss Best of Fan Club in 2002.

Donruss Longball Leaders #3 Tino Martinez
This insert set was numbered to 5,000. Longball Leaders was an insert set in Donruss going back to 1993. It will return in 2002 and run through 2005 when Donruss disappeared again. This card has a textured foil background that looks a lot better in person then in the scan.

1998 Donruss Rookie Diamond Kings #11 Todd Green
Numbered to 10,000. Apparently not an impressive group of rookies as Beckett does not list any of the cards individually. There was also a "Canvass" version, numbered to 500.

1998 Donruss Dominators #4 Jeff Bagwell
This 30-card insert was found only in update packs. It is another long-running Donruss insert set.

Of the 19 inserts to this set, I now have 11. The rest have relatively short press runs and are not worth chasing at this time.

In my quest to obtain 200 different types of cards issued in 1998, I now had 192. It looks like 200 shouldn't be a problem.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Topps Photoshoping Adventures

I like this year's Topps cards quite a lot. I think they are much better than 2010 Upper Deck. But Topps is up to their old Photoshopping ways again. I've only bought a few packs of Topps Opening Day. One of the first cards was this Curtis Granderson card. My first though was that I didn't remember him being with the Yankees last year. He ended up in New York after a three-way trade involving the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks.Here's his regular Topps card as a Tiger.
Here's another example with John Lackey. He was a fre agent signed by the Red Sox (a cool $82 mil for 5 years) in December.

Last year he was with the Angels. They did a pretty good job with the Red Sox uniform. You can even see a little a Red Sox patch on his right sleeve.Does this sort of thing bother you? It doesn't bother me. Topps, after all, has a long tradition of doing this sort of thing but today they are much better at it. I think it's fun to find cards like this.