Diamond Giveaway tradeathon

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Here's a list of the current outstanding trades I have on the Diamond Giveaway site. See if you can pick out the theme:

Yes, I have (unofficially) begun work on the birth year set. I've decided to collect as many 1975 cards as I can, then get them shipped at the end of the giveaway. Right now, I have one '75er in my collection (Earl Williams), but I hope to get more by trading up my '76 and '77 cards or even trading down '73s and '74s. We'll see.

Some final business

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Well, it's finally over. The box has been busted, the cards have been sorted, and my want list has been updated. I ended up with around 280 cards, so another 40-something are required. Any help you can provide is lovely.

After pulling star after star that I didn't want, I finally got a Diamond Star card that is of interest to me. The checklist isn't great (for my purposes) as there's only three cards on there that I want, and this is one of them. Votto and Felix are the other two.

The checklist on the Topps 60 and the Kimballs, on the other hand, have been fantastic this time around and I've added many more to my want list. Here's an example - Johnny Bench in all the Reds double-knit glory.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but growing up in Cincinnati, I always got the sense that a person was either a Johnny Bench fan or a Pete Rose fan, but you really couldn't be both. You might appreciate the other for what they accomplished, but you really only warmed to one or the other. I was a Pete Rose fan growing up. That's not to say I mind it when I get a Bench card - it's always welcome. And given how Pete is now persona non grata in ToppsTown (and all of baseball), I guess I won't be pulling any new Roses in the forseeable future.

The category they chose for this Topps 60 card is very lame, however.

Finally, the last gold parallel of the box, and I'm certainly please by this. Rarely do I get gold parallels of players I give a shit about. They're usually Pirates, and that trend held firm again with this box. Prior to this Roberts, the only gold parallel I pulled - ever - that I was happy to see was a Felix Hernandez league leaders card that he had to share with two other pictures. So this one is pretty good. Then you flip it over and check out the serial number:

ZOMG!!!!@~``111!!@!!! IT'S A 1-OF-1!!!!!!!! I COULD GO ONTO EBAY AND SELL THIS FOR $$$$$$$$

No it's not. It's a 1 of 2011. Says so right on the card.

Bird Belters

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You never know what you're going to find. I was searching for copies of the Sandy Koufax short print and I typed in "2011 Topps 530" (because that's the card number). In amongst the Koufaxes and the Felixes (how great is it that they share a card number?), I found this card.

It's a 60 Years of Topps reprint, and it's an original back. It was listed because in the original 1968 set, this card was #530. And at a very reasonable price, it's now mine.

Like I said, you never know what you're going to find.

Photo courtesy of eBay

My newest Lincecum, plus some other cards

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I promised myself that I wouldn't use this opportunity to take a cheap shot at the Cardinals. But who am I kidding - of course I will! As you know, I am a sucker for cards that feature vintage uniforms. I should now amend that statement. I am a sucker for card that feature vintage uniforms that don't look like clown costumes.

On to some other cards. I can somewhat understand why Play at the Plate doesn't like the Hamilton card I featured earlier. After seeing this Lincecum card, I feel deflated. I've seen this card before. In fact, I have about 25 copies of it. What a let down - when cards of your favorite players don't live up to your expectations. I still think the Hamilton card is fantasic, though.

Hmm, I wonder who the inspiration for this Joe Mauer card was. Hint: consider who published the card. It's as plain as the nose on your face number on Mauer's back.

Finally, this Michael Pineda card was pulled one day too late. I considered adding him in the "young arms that are the hope of the franchise" post, but I didn't want to wait and I wasn't guaranteed to pull him, anyway. Sod's law says I'd get him the next day.

This is almost the end. I have four packs left, then comes the wrap-up post. Plenty of typing to come all weekend long.

Joy of a Completed Page (2011 Topps edition, part 2)

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Here's my first filled Series 2 binder page. I completed four of them tonight. Only 33 more to go...

A pair of lively young...arms

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Welcome to The Hope of the Franchise. Today, we'll highlight two young pitchers who their respective teams are pinning their hopes on. Why? Because it's a lot better than watching this depressing Reds/Yankees game. Jose Arredondo can suck it.

First up is the hapless Arredondo's teammate, Mike Leake. The first player from his draft class to make the major leagues (suck it, Stephen Strasburg!), Leake is now entering his second full season as a big league player. He didn't mess around with the minor leagues. What's the point in blowing away single-A batters in Hagerstown? The Reds didn't worry about making Leake a "Super Two" arbitration eligible player. If he's ready, he's ready.

And Leake was ready. He beat out future big-league teammates Travis Wood, Aroldis Chapman and Micah Owings (outpitching two of them, and outhitting the other). He went his first ten career starts without losing a single game. And even though he was eventually optioned to Triple-A in his second season (damn you, Jose Arredondo!), he still has a career record of 14-7 and is back in the big leagues, hopefully to stay. No, I don't know why he shoplifted those shirts, either.

Fun fact: Because Leake grew up in Southern California, the conference that his high school played in is called the "Avocado League." That's awesome.

Fun fact #2: Leake grew up as a Seattle Mariners fan. So did I. We also both took the field in Cincinnati, albeit at different stadiums.

Our second featured star is the bright young hope for the Baltimore Orioles, Jake Arrieta. Arrieta and his teammates, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton, have been called the new Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz. Or perhaps it's the new Hudson/Zito/Mulder. Or maybe the new Halladay/Carpenter/Escobar. No matter who you compare them to, big things are expected from these three guys. Let's hope they're not the next Isringhausen/Pulsipher/Wilson.

Arrieta's best feature, so far, as been a career winning percentage over .500 - hey, it might not seem like much, but remember, he pitches for the Baltimore Orioles. This is a team that has been below .500 since 1998, yet he's five games over .500 for the season (9-4) and his career (15-10). The guy is good, and he's only getting better. Last season, he struck out 52 batters in 100 innings. This season, he's struck out more (71) in less (88). Even though the team, let's face it, stinks, Arrieta isn't letting it bother him. He just goes out and does his job, every fifth day. Good on him!

Fun fact: He was a fan of Nolan Ryan when he was growing up. So was Mike Leake, and so was half the power pitchers in Major League Baseball today. That's how long Nolan Ryan pitched.

Fun fact #2: There was nothing else I could find on Wikipedia. Wikipedia sucks.

Random thoughts from the Topps box

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It's hard for me to write currently, because it's that time of year again - report card time. Thankfully, this year I only have twenty reports to write, and the expectations for how much to write are less than at my old school. But finding the proper motivation is still a necessity, and it usually means that all other writing activities get pushed to the wayside.

But I'm still opening cards, as it provides a bit of a welcome distraction. And in those packs, I'm still finding interesting things to talk about. For example:

Another year, another uniform for J.J. Putz. After six years of remarkable stability with the Mariners, this marks his fourth team in as many seasons. He'll probably get traded at the deadline or something like that.

Oh great - so how many copies of this card do I need now to complete all my collections?
(The answer, by the way, is four)

The Kimball minis checklist for Series 2 was full of great players for me to collect. Unfortunately, I kept pulling cards of people like Gary Carter. I've never really liked Gary Carter - there's something about him that rubbed me the wrong way, and I can tell you exactly what it is - that bubble-headed perm of his. I don't care that he no longer has it - the point is, he did. I feel the same way about Don Sutton and latter-day episodes of The Brady Bunch when Mike Brady traded in his respectable businessman cut for a swinging '70s perm.

Anyway, the Luis Aparicio is the first Kimball card on my personal checklist that I've pulled. All the rest will be available, and revealed in my Series 2 box break wrap-up post, due early next week.

On a final note, I won a new scanner/printer/copier at the school's fundraiser charity auction. The good news is, it's now a lot easier and less aggravating for me to scan cards. It's literally pushing one button and then changing file names to make my organisational format. So I don't feel dread in having to scan a big pack of cards, and should have a lot more illustrations soon.

Double your pleasure

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The packs I opened today included the promised hit, the base card of one of my favorite players (and an insert card as well), a Diamond Parallel of an exciting young prospect, and a redemption scheme that has frustrated me to no end. But I'm not going to show you any of those cards.

Instead, here are two cards of the hottest young superstar in the game. He's got two base cards in this series, and I got both of them. In the same pack!

Yes, it's a Jason Heyward hot pack. The card on the left is his proper base card, while the one on the right is his Rookie Cup card. This year Topps decided to print separate Rookie Cup cards instead of just putting the logo on the regular card, as they did in years past. I'm not a fan of that decision, because it takes away another spot in the checklist that could be used for either an established major leaguer or player that made a roster out of spring training (or, more likely, the third lefty in the Yankees bullpen). Why do Heyward, Buster Posey, Austin Jackson and Danny Valencia, for crying out loud, need two spots in the 2011 checklist? In Posey's case (and Neftali Feliz as well), between the regular card, the Rookie Cup, and the Rookie of the Year card, three spots in the checklist are being used. I like Buster Posey and think he's a great player. But three base cards are overkill.

Okay, rant over. Let's talk about the cards. The Rookie Cup card is fairly generic, just a picture of him leaving the batter's box. Maybe if it was on the basepaths, it would have been more evocative. The base card, on the other hand, could have been a great card. The ball in the air, about to go into J-Hey's glove (just like the Hamilton card). It's a frontal view of Heyward (so Dayf's happy) and because of that, you can actually see his face and the look of concentration as he follows the ball into his glove. From his body language, you can get a sense of the game situation. There's an air of casualness in his stance, so you have to think that there's nobody on base, and he's quite possibly about to make the third out of the inning. Heyward looks like he's about to make the catch and just keep on jogging, straight into the dugout. He might not even throw the ball back in. There's just one huge, glaring flaw. Can you spot it?

That damn electronic advertisement that Heyward is standing in front of is ruining the shot! It's an awful background, and makes Heyward look like he's posing in front of the world's biggest Lite-Brite. Not even a good Lite-Brite - it looks like one that's missing half of the pegs. Time and time again, those electronic ads and scoreboards are ruining baseball cards. Topps has never shown any reluctance to airbrush or Photoshop their pictures. Why can't they do us a favor and airbrush in a normal outfield wall?

Uniform Back Cards (Part 7 in a series)

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Yesterday, I posted what I thought was the worst card of 2011 Topps. And yes, Dayf, I was serious. The choice of a white-gray background on a card that has a white border is an inexcusable decision on Topps' part. Had the series featured full-bleed photography, or a colored border, then the background might have looked good, because I agree that there are too many generic shots in cards today. But the hoodie is still a deal breaker. Call me crazy, but I like to have the players on my baseball cards wearing, oh, I don't know, baseball uniforms!

But today I am not here to bury Topps, but to praise it. Because I have found one of the better cards in the series. It's certainly good enough for inclusion in the Uniform Back Series. I present card #650, Josh Hamilton:

The photographer captured Hambone in mid-stride, and I can say with absolute certainty that this picture was taken a split-second before he made the catch. I mean, look at that ball - there's no way it didn't go in the glove. Sure, we're talking about the Rangers, but this isn't a Jose-Canseco-ball-off-the-melon situation.

That it's an action shot instead of a "just-standing-around" picture is just one way that this card succeeds where the Fred Lewis card fails. Another is the colors. The predominantly black (with a touch of dark blue) background contrasts well with the white border. You don't get the feeling, if only for a second, that the card is horribly miscut or a printing flaw. And speaking of contrast, look at how well Hamilton's uniform, particularly his bright white pants, stand out from the outfield wall. Even the "404" marking the center field distance complements, rather than competes for attention.

Of course, this is a Uniform Back card, and a fine example at that. You can clearly see the player's name and number. The fact that uniform number and the distance on the outfield wall are in the same font ties it all together nicely. A big thumbs up to Topps for this card.

In other business, I don't know if I got a 60 Years of Topps "hot box" or if I'm just uncovering my allotment early, but I like the results so far. In eight packs, I've gotten four 60YOT cards, which is a good return for someone collecting the set. The best of the bunch? Well it's really no contest:

A 1965 Frank Robinson, in his last season with the Reds. I'll be back again tomorrow with some more from Series 2. Please be sure to vote in my poll if you haven't already. How do you organise your player collections?

Is this the worst card of the year?

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Well, I bowed to public opinion and opened the box of MLB Series 2 cards first. The first four packs were a mixture - I got the infamous Domonic Brown "twink that isn't really a twink" card. I got a Pirates diamond parallel card (shocker!) and a decent mix of Reds, White Sox and Orioles (including Paul Janish and Chris Tillman). I also got what has to be the worst card in the 2011 set. Number 517, Fred Lewis:

How to I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. First, the picture was taken at spring training, and Fred is wearing a hoodie. A hoodie! Not even a warm-up jacket. Frankly, I would have preferred a dodgy airbrushing job to a hoodie. And what appears to be slacks.

Secondly, the sky was very gray that day. It's probably why Fred was wearing the hoodie in the first place. But when you combine that with the white border that surrounds the card - it all blends together. Honestly, when I saw the card in the pack, I thought it was horribly miscut. Imagine the horror when I realised the card is as it's supposed to be. What a craptastic design job.

Finally, the picture just isn't great. It looks washed out (maybe because of the extremely gray sky) and you can't even see Fred's face that well behind the sunglasses, hat pulled down and side-on view. Not to mention he has two baseball bats in front of his head. The fact that he's even wearing sunglasses begs another question - if it was that overcast, why was he wearing sunglasses, anyway?

I refuse to believe that was the best picture Topps took of Fred Lewis in spring training this year. Even if it was, they should have realised the pickings were slim and trotted out the old airbrush. Fred Lewis, like all ball players, deserves a real baseball card, not a half-assed attempt. More importantly, so do we.

The people have spoken

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But I'm not thrilled with the answer.

The winning entry on my poll was for Topps Series 2, but I must say that I'm intrigued about opening the Pro Debut box. What to do, what to do?

I guess I could show the results from the final of three lots of Ichiro cards I purchased for 99 cents each on eBay. That's 70 cards in total for my PC for less than three bucks. I did have some duplicates, but I easily added at least 50 new cards to the Ichiro collection.

Here's nine of the cards. Most are Upper Deck, but there are some Topps and Fleer in there as well. I already had the ones in the top row. I have about eight copies of the one of him in the suit.

The pack also included two sets of three parallel cards. The top is the Victory game set. I got a single, double and triple card, but not the home run (how appropriate). The bottom is from 2002 Topps, commemorating Ichiro's MVP/Rookie of the Year double in the previous season.

Finally, some horizontal cards. Unfortunately, the foil on both the top and bottom cards are peeling up on the left-hand side. They will do for now, but I'm probably doomed to searching high and low for a replacement.

But this post brings me to my next poll. How do you like to organise your player collections? Do you organise them by year, by manufacturer, or by year *and* manufacturer? Currently, I've got mine by year, but I'm thinking of switching to manufacturer. There's something to be said for both - by year, things are more organised, but you run the risk of gaps and open slots on pages where you don't have nine cards (or a multiple of nine) for a year. At least with manufacturer you can add cards as you buy them, but it makes it harder to find an individual card in the binder.

I guess it boils down to personal preference, so what's your preference? Vote in the poll to the right, and add a comment if you'd like to expound upon your vote. Thanks for participating!

This card was made for me

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

I know that a lot of people hate (or a least severely dislike) the 1986 Topps design. But personally, I love it. I have the '86 set and some day, given enough time and binder sheets, I will blog about every single card in that set, not unlike the legendary 1988 Topps blog that got me started into baseball card blogging.

So I love 1986 Topps. And King Felix is one of my favorite players. When this card from the Trading Card History set appeared on eBay with 15 minutes to go and zero bids, how could I not buy it?

I've got to go now. The Reds are making a rare appearance on Australian TV. Sure, they're carrying the Dodgers network feed, but at least that means I get to listen to Vin Scully, so it's not all bad.

Guess what came in the mail today?

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...and this. It figures.

I can't complain about the transit time - I got the e-mail and tracking number saying the packages were sent on June 8, the release date for Topps Series 2. They were delivered to me on June 14 - which, when you count for the International Date Line, was actually June 13 in America. And that's with a weekend in the middle.

Way to go, Orange County Sports Cards!

I guess I'll keep the poll up for a little while longer, but I really can't wait a whole week to bust open these boxes.

My first poll

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Real life always seems to get in the way. I've got a stack of cards that need scanning, but no time to do it and an scanner that is not talking to my computer due to some sort of lover's quarrel (ah, silicon love). The result? Nearly a month without posting. Egads!

To make it up to you, my wonderful readers, and to celebrate the 50th follower on the website, which apparently happened at some point during my absence, I have an RGB Cards first. No, not a contest. Or a group break. How does a poll sound? Look to your right. Try to ignore the box for The Belt that hasn't been updated in a while. I'll have to fix that soon.

I have ordered, from Orange County Sports Cards, two boxes. One is 2011 Topps Pro Debut Series 1, the other is 2011 Topps Baseball Series 2. The package has apparently cleared customs, according to the USPS tracking site, and should arrive at my house most likely within the week. It should make a welcome distraction as I work on report cards this week.

I also ordered some Ultra Pro binder pages from an eBay seller here in Australia, since I was flat clean out of them. Unfortunately, I can't read too well. I thought I was ordering four boxes of the pages. Instead, I was ordering four lots of ten sleeves each. I should have known that seven bucks, shipped, was too cheap for a box! (As a point of reference, a box of 100 usually costs me 50 bucks at my "L"CS. They are damned expensive here in AUS. No wonder I try to bring back as many as I can whenever I visit America).

So because of this, I only have enough binder sheet to open one box right now, either the Pro Debut or the Series 2. Which box should I open first? And which will have to wait until I can order more Ultra Pro sheets? I leave my fate in your hands.

In the spirit of Chicago politics, and the All-Star game: vote early, and vote often. The poll will be open for a week, or until the package gets here. Whichever is sooner.

Image credits: 
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Associated Press