Annoyed, but not

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in , , , , ,

First, the annoyed bit. Let's get that out of the way first.

I'm going through my jumbo box of 2013 Series 1, and I've opened four packs so far. That said, pack #4 was a complete bust. Every single base card that I pulled was a duplicate of one of the cards in the first three packs, with I'd say 70% of them being from pack #3 (that is, the pack that was lying right next to it in the box). That's just really, really poor collation.

Okay, not every single base card was a duplicate. There was one (one!) different card, and here it is.

I was hoping I would get one of the Out of Bounds short prints, because now I have something to put in the glaring hole on the first page of the binder where card #7 is supposed to be. And Albert Pujols is a nice one to have. That said, he is available for trade if you have a Jay Bruce, Paul Konerko or Todd Frazier OoB short print to trade.

Now for the good part. I mentioned a big eBay purchase the other day. Well, it arrived, quicker that expected:

This is one of the printing plates for 2009 Spectrum, aka the "Four Rainbows" that I've been chasing since, well, 2009. Three years ago, I let a Lincecum printing plate slip through my fingers because I was on school camp and got my times confused (and missed the ending by an hour). I wasn't going to let Felix get away.

The goal for me is not to get all the printing plates, but at least one from each of the four rainbows. One down, three to go.

2013 Topps - First Thoughts

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I opened the first jumbo pack of Topps 2013 Series 1 this morning. Unfortunately, there were no hits and/or short prints, like there was with my first packs of 2011 and 2012. Maybe all the good stuff is yet to come. At any rate, I'm posting my initial thoughts on 2013 in this post, then I'm going to go and see what else I got.

I'm not sold on the white backgrounds at the bottom of the card that bleed into the white borders. They give the cards a kind of unfinished look. It's hard to put my finger on it, but it just seems like the cards need a defined boundary. Baseball is such a game about lines, that to see baseball cards without them is somewhat unsettling.

The "Career Chase" blurb on the back of the cards is, frankly, stupid. It's dumb because it's meaningless. Why put that "with 28 wins, Daniel Hudson is 483 away from Cy Young's record of 511." when everybody in the world knows that Hudson (or anybody) is never going to break that record. How about relatively meaningful stats like "Hudson is 72 wins away from 100 for his career" or maybe team records. Don't put that Ryan Howard needs 462 home runs to break Bonds's record - I can subtract 300 from 762 myself, and besides, Howard is not even halfway there and he's already washed up. The Career Chase is a completely useless feature that didn't have to be.

Okay, on for something I do like; specifically, for the first 60 or so cards (which the exception of Bryce Harper and card #1), Topps has assigned the card number to a person who wears that uniform number (although why they didn't give Mo Rivera card #42 is anyone's guess). That's a nice touch. Boo, however, for not issuing a Mickey Mantle card this year, while still keeping card #7 "retired", thus creating a big hole on the first page of the binder. Seriously, Topps, it's time to drop that stupid gimmick. If the Marlins can un-retire jersey #5, you can un-retire card #7. Hell, give it to a Yankee every time if you must. I can live with that.

The Three Stars of the pack:

3. Dustin Ackley batting. I'm a sucker for those shots taken a millisecond after the ball leaves the bat.

2. Adam Jones diving. As a coach, I appreciate defensive fundamentals, such as a fielder following the ball all the way into his glove.

1. Dee Gordon turning the double play. An otherwise routine defensive play made remarkable by the stunning presence of Brandon Moss's green-and-gold uniform in the foreground.

Here's Jose Reyes in an airbrushed Blue Jays uniform...

...and here's Heath Bell in an airbrushed Diamondbacks uniform

I'm not holding my breath to see Shin-Soo Choo in an airbrushed Reds uniform, but it would be nice if Topps held his card back to Series 2 so we didn't have to see him in Indians threads.
(Update: I just looked at the checklist. Choo is card #17 because he wears #17. Damn.)

No great insert cards of note. The most impressive was an Adam Jones die-cut card. Since I'm only planning on collecting four of the cards from that set, to get one that I needed straight away was a nice start. I also got a Bryce Harper insert card, which is good, I guess.

I don't plan on posting any more about Series 1 until I finish the whole box, and then I'll recap. Until that time, I'll be doing more baseball-related posts instead of card posts. I did have a major eBay purchase yesterday that I'll be sure to blog about once it arrives.

Wow, post #300

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

Sorry it's not terribly worthy of a round-number milestone.

My 2013 box came today (spoiler alert: I thought it might). Unfortunately, there was no time to get stuck into it. This year, of course, I'm going to change things up a bit with my recaps. I'll post my thoughts on the first pack, of course, because it's a new set and there will be doubtless lots to say. But then I'm going to do a whole-box recap with hits, special cards, inserts and what I think were the pick of the base cards. Hopefully, with it being a jumbo box, I will get one of every base card. That's what I get the jumbos for.

However, I've been thinking about the blaster boxes. The main attractions, for me, are that you get a bunch of insert cards (good if you're collecting insert sets) and the manu-patches. Last year's retired number patches were, for me, as good as it gets. I started out just wanting to collect the teams and players in my PCs, and now I'm thinking about going for the whole collection.

However, in looking at the two types of manu-patches on offer for 2013, I can't say that I'm too impressed. This time, I really will just go for the players in my PC (not even worrying about the teams; that's how underwhelmed I am). Same with the insert sets. There really aren't that many that interest me. I'm not going to collect the '72 minis because - treason alert - I think the '72 set looks stupid. I've never liked it, not since I was 9 years old and saw the reprints in that K-Mart MVP set. I'm probably in for the Chasing History set (key word: history) and Chasing the Dream (because I always collect the rookie insert set) and that's about it.

Due to my lack of interest in the patches and inserts this year, I'm probably just going to stick to hobby boxes and pick up the few manupatches I want off of eBay. What say you all? Is this a solid plan? What are your thoughts on the blasters and this year's crop of insert sets?

Pitchers and Catchers Report!

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And what better way to celebrate than to do some shopping? I need to clean out my closet, how do these replacements seem?

I know this really doesn't have to do with pitchers and catchers reporting, but I'm very excited that Spring Training has begun and I wanted to commemorate the event, somehow. On a card-related note, the USPS tracking information says that my 2013 Topps jumbo box is in "AUSTRALIA" so that's something, I guess.

No more detailed information, just "AUSTRALIA." How very useful.

When they say snail mail...

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...they ain't kidding.

First, some background. I made some eBay purchases in late October. My mom mailed them, along with some other stuff, in early November. Here's the postmark:

The package arrived in my

I had pretty much given up hope. Usually, when a package takes a long time, it's because Customs and Quarantine has it, they saw something on the X-ray they didn't like, and they opened it up and inspected further. I've had that happen a couple of time (usually with food involved) and when they do that, they seal the package back up and include a little card explaining what they did and a number to call if you want to complain (not that it would do any good).

No card in this package. So who knows why it was delayed. And for so long.

I'm just glad that Australia Post (or possibly the USPS, there's no way of knowing on which side of the Pacific it got lost on) found it. Because one of the cards was the one on the top row, in the middle.

As you can see, that card completes my Griffey Spectrum rainbow. That's two rainbows down, two more (Ichiro and Felix) to go.

Finished sorting

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

Just finished going through all my '75 Topps. It's too late to do a full-blown post, but I now have 449 cards, more than two-thirds of the way through the set. I'm pleased with that result. The lot of 422 cards added approximately 300 new cards to my set, as well as quite a few for the team sets.

This weekend, I'm going to post the cards I have of players who went on to become managers.

Oh, and I did get a Brett card amongst all of them. :)

A passel of '75s

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

I love watching the show Storage Wars. One of my dreams is to win a storage locker auction and find a whole bunch of 1975 Topps cards in the locker. There's just two things wrong with that dream:

  1. There aren't any storage locker auctions in Australia. Here, if you don't pay your bill, the companies just open up the locker themselves, take all the good stuff and sell it, and throw the rest away. Which I suppose is fair enough.
  2. Even if there were storage locker auctions here, I highly doubt any lockers would contain any 1975 Topps cards.
However, I have a new friend named Jeff. Jeff is a storage auction enthusiast who happened to come across some 1975 Topps cards in a locker he bought. 422 of them, in fact. So Jeff put the lot on eBay, where I was able to snag it for right around 42 bucks. In other words, I got all those cards for the 10-cents-a-card benchmark I think is fair.

The cards arrived yesterday, and so far I have resisted the urge to bust out all of them in a hours-long 1975 Topps cataloguing and filing orgy. I've only gone through a third instead. Here are two highlights.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the best card in 1975 Topps. Not Robin Yount, or George Brett, or either of the Hank Aarons. Why is this Herb Washington card the best? Check out his position.

Now check out the back. Even his stat lines are different, adjusted to reflect his unique position in baseball history.

Finally, here is a "Joy of a Completed Page" - my first completed page of '75 Topps.

More to come as I go through the second lot of my "Storage Wars" cards tonight.

The '75 Crown Jewels (Part 1 of 3)

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

I'm going to take a break from my recap of some of the top stories of the off-season because in the mail today I received two packages from eBay. As many of you know, I'm collecting the 1975 Topps set because it's my "birth year" set. With the '75 set are three cards that I consider the crown jewels - three Hall of Famers, two in the sunrise of their careers, and one in the twilight. Of course, these are Robin Yount and George Brett's rookie cards, and the Hank Aaron Card #1 commemorating his 715th home run and the breaking of Babe Ruth's record.

It would be pretty easy to collect the other 657 cards in the set and not have to spend too much. The trick, I think, is not to overpay on Aaron, Brett and Yount. Of course, if you were in to PSA 10s and all that crap, you'd need to spend a pretty penny on the crown jewels. I'm not about that. My '75 set is in a binder, and, unlike my modern-day sets, I like this one having a bit of character. No creases, thanks, but I don't mind the rounded corner or bubble-gum stain here and there, and many of the checklists I got so far have been marked.

So with that in mind, I'm happy to reveal the first crown jewel that I have acquired - Card #223, Robin Yount:

Special shout-out to Larry Yount in the trivia question, and I love the throw-away line at the end of the blurb: "He's popular with fans." As we all know, that turned out to be quite the understatement.

Happy Australia Day (observed)!

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I was planning on doing this post on Saturday, the actual Australia Day, but I had to get up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work. Then I would have done in on Sunday, when it still would have been the 26th for most of you in the States, but I got to sleep 4:30 a.m.

Luckily, with January 26th falling on a Saturday this year, an everyone still entitled to a holiday, I have one more chance. Never mind that the First Fleet landed on January 26, 1788 - according to the Australian government, today is Australia Day. So here is a tribute to Australian baseball players, at least some of the ones whose cards I have.

Of course, we all know this guy, perhaps the most famous Australian-born big leaguer in the game today. Make all the jokes you want about how you wouldn't want a pitcher whose last name is "Bal(l )four" - the Sydney native is the all-time leader for strikeouts (and saves) by an Aussie in the big leagues. And next season, he's going to make $4.5 million. Which is about $4.3 million in Aussie dollars.

Luke Hughes is from Perth, and is one of a handful of people lucky enough to hit a home run in his first big-league at bat. How rare is it? While, in the history of major-league baseball, twice as many people have thrown a no-hitter than have hit a first-at bat home run. Hughes started 2012 as the Twins second baseman, but proceeded to crap the bed so much that he was designated for assignment and picked up by the Athletics, who played him at third base. He ended the season in Las Vegas.

Peter Moylan, what happened to you? Never fully recovered from his rotator cuff injury, the Perth native is going to try and make it back to the big leagues with the Dodgers this season.

Rich Thompson is from Sydney. You may remember him from the post I did of his first Upper Deck card, where you couldn't even see his face. Thankfully, his cards have improved, even if his pitching hasn't. He also spent some time in Oakland this year. It seems Billy Beane was collecting Australians the way most of us collect baseball cards.

Travis Blackley, born in Melbourne, did not play for the Athletics this season. Oh wait, yes he did.

I wish I had a Graeme Lloyd card to scan and show you. After all, Lloyd is the only Australian pitcher to pitch ten seasons in the big leagues. At least, until Balfour hits the milestone this season. Nowadays, you'll find Lloyd in Perth, as the pitching coach for the two-time (soon to be three) ABL champion Perth Heat.

How will you remember Dave Nilsson? As the greatest Australian hitter in MLB history, or as the man who pulled an Isiah Thomas on the Australian Baseball League?

Kyrie Irving? Whaaaa? Well, he was actually born in Melbourne, has dual citizenship, and has expressed an interest in playing for the Boomers if USA Basketball doesn't come calling soon. So there you go.

Happy Australia Day!

Offseason Stories: Kevin Towers's Dreamland

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I'll start off with a disclosure: I've never thought that Kevin Towers is a very good GM. I wasn't impressed with him in San Diego and his time in Arizona has done nothing to disabuse me of that position.

Which brings me to this offseason. Apparently, Towers's plan is to stockpile outfielders and shortstops like so many trading cards. Collecting outfielders is okay, since you need to play three at the same time, but shortstops? And these particular shortstops? For what he gave up?

Cliff Pennington finally wore out his welcome in Oakland, so Towers acquired him for Chris Young (Is that Chris B. Young? I've lost track). The move finally appeared to open up a spot for the talented yet marginalised Gerardo Parra, but as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. But more on that later.

Then, in December, Towers traded away one of the most touted and skilled pitching prospects, Trevor Bauer, to Cleveland for Lars Anderson (bench guy at best, expected to start in AAA) and Didi Gregorius, who the Indians had just acquired from Cincinnati in the Shin-Soo Choo deal. Apparently, Bauer was traded because he's too outspoken, too cocky, and has his own way of warming up and long tossing. Well, since he's never had any history of arm trouble, I say let him keep doing what he's doing, because it works. But that's not the Kevin Towers way. Some 21-year-old kid thinks he knows better? Well screw him. And even though he's the biggest prospect in the organization, let's punish him for an outburst by not calling him up in September. It's not like we need him - we just went from worst to first to back to worst.

But Towers loves Didi Gregorius. He even went so far as to call him, and I'm not making this up, "a young Derek Jeter." Unfortunately, Kevin Towers is the only person to think this. As a bonus, if you Google "Didi Gregorius Derek Jeter Kevin Towers idiot" you get 4,600 hits. Including a gem where Towers says "I expect (Gregorius) to compete for the starting shortstop job this year. If he doesn't, then I'm an idiot."

Umm, Kevin, how do you think that makes Cliff Pennington feel? You traded for him to be the starting shortstop, then, fifty days later, you trade for his replacement. Before he's even swung a bat in anger for the Snakes. Way to build confidence!

Then there's the sad, sorry Justin Upton saga. Remember when I talked about the Chris Young trade? The logjam in the Arizona outfield was finally cleared - and then Towers went and signed Cody Ross. Back to the bench, Gerardo!

Unless, of course, the Snakes could trade Upton or Jason Kubel. Of the two, Upton would yield the most in return. He had a no-trade clause, but it was very small, only four teams. So there's still 25 teams Towers could make a deal with. And in fact, he made quite a good deal with the Mariners - four prospects for Upton.

Only - and here's where I was well and truly baffled - Seattle was one of the four teams on Upton's no-trade list! Not surprisingly, he blocked the trade. Then, the news comes down that Towers is negotiating a deal with the Cubs for Upton. Yep - you guessed it. The Cubs are also on Upton's list.

So let me get this straight: There are 25 teams that Kevin Towers could make a deal to trade Justin Upton, and Upton would have no say in the matter. There are a mere four teams that he could block a deal with, and Towers talks with not one, but two of them?


I don't care what reason Towers could give, there's really no excuse for that. Either he has no idea what's in his players' contracts, or he has the hubris that he could trade one of his star players and that player wouldn't use his very limited no trade clause), or he's just an idiot. But I guess we have to wait and see if Didi Gregorius battles for the starting shortstop job to figure that last one out.

Offseason Stories: The Reds' Rotation

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Quick - name the only team who had their Opening Day five-man rotation start 161 games last season, the most in the majors?

If you guessed the Cincinnati Reds, you either really know your box scores, or you surmised it from the headline at the top of the page.

Yes, the Reds were the most hardy rotation in the big leagues last season. And the good news for Cincinnati fans is that everybody returns; well, sort of.

Last year, the rotation was Johnny Cueto/Mat Latos/Bronson Arroyo/Homer Bailey/Mike Leake. And all five are still with the Reds. But Leake will be shifting to the bullpen. That's because a spot in middle relief opened up when Jonathan Broxton was anointed the club's new closer. And that's because the moment Reds fans have been waiting for these past three years has finally arrived:

Aroldis Chapman, the possessor of the fastest pitch in the history of Major League Baseball, is now a member of the Reds' rotation.

I'll admit, I am a member of the group of Reds fans that have been calling for this since the Cuban Missile was signed back in 2010. I didn't understand what was taking so long. If you want to ease him into big-league life, then sure, keep him in the bullpen during his September 2010 call up. But why did you spend all that money and a huge signing bonus on a set-up man (which is what Chapman was in 2011, and the start of 2012).

Another thing - Chapman always seemed like the type of pitcher who needed to get going. Not from a velocity standpoint, obviously, but from a control standpoint. When he was pitching out of the bullpen, it seemed like his modus operandi was to get himself into a jam, then pitch out of it (the "Francisco Cordero method" if you will). However, as the inning wore on, and if he were called on to pitch a second inning, he got much more dominant. For this reason, as late as May 2012, I was still advocating Chapman's entry into the rotation, given Leake's early-season struggles and my general distrust of Bailey.

Of course, Dusty Baker and Bryan Price had more faith in Bailey and Leake than I did. And, as it turns out, less faith in Sean Marshall. Thus, Aroldis the Closer was born.

It was, of course, the right move. The Reds rotation proved both dominating and hardy. Chapman thrived as a closer, and Marshall was much more comfortable in his previous role as a situational lefty. He'll stay in that role this year.

However, let's play "What if?" What if, for whatever reason, Broxton flames out as the closer? Well, my money is on Chapman, not Marshall, taking over the spot, with Leake reclaiming his place in the rotation. The thinking, of course, is that the pitching staff was so good last season, why not recreate it?

The answer of course, is that you can't. And the Reds know this, or else they wouldn't have moved Chapman to the rotation in the first place. 2012 was a very good year for the Reds in general and the pitching staff in particular, but it's already gone. I hope we see a full year of Chapman in the rotation, and that he lives up to all the expectations. I hope he breaks his 105.1 mph record at some point. I hope Johnny Cueto wins 20 games, Mat Latos surpasses him as the Reds' ace, and Bronson Arroyo has one last great season. And I hope that Homer Bailey doesn't do anything that pisses me off. The past five seasons in Cincinnati have been leading up to this. Now is the time.

How strange it is, then, that the most intriguing member of the rotation, the most durable and reliable in the majors, is the one who has exactly zero big-league starts to his name.

By the way, the reason the Reds' rotation only started 161 games instead of 162 wasn't because of injury, or incompetence, or general suckitude. It was because of a double-header that necessitated a pitcher called up from Triple-A for one start. If you can name that sixth starter for the Reds last year, I'll give you a prize. Please be honest - it'd be easy to look it up, but as we all know, the internet and smart phones are the bane of trivia contests everywhere.

In Memoriam

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

What a sad day for baseball. Two of the all-time greats at what they did. They will be missed.

Offseason Stories: Toronto Blue Jays

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Ed. Note: With the start of Spring Training a month away, and most free agents signed up, it's time to look at the biggest stories and trends of the Hot Stove League as we prepare for the 2013 season. These are the teams and players expected to have an impact next season. First up - the team across the border, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos smelled blood in the water. Or perhaps he was sick of being upstaged.

Amazingly, in the division widely considered to be the least competitively balanced in all of baseball, four out of the five teams made the playoffs in the past four years. The only AL East team that didn't? The Blue Jays, of course.

(By the way, the 80% mark is equalled only by the National League West, home of famous yo-yo teams the Rockies and Diamondbacks.)

With the Red Sox in the toilet, and Yankees in self-imposed fiscal responsibility mode, the Rays perpetually so, and the Orioles ready for some serious regression to the mean, this represents Toronto's best chance of a playoff appearance since - wait for it - 1993!

Yeah, the year this happened.

So Anthopoulos went to his boss, Paul Beeston, who went to his bosses at Rogers Communications, and got permission to take on approximately half the Marlins payroll and all of their good player (at least, the ones who didn't change their names halfway through Spring Training). Then, if a remaking their rotation by adding an ERA champ and the owner of a perfecto wasn't enough, Anthopoulos flat-out stole the reigning NL Cy Young winner, a knuckleballer who might possibly pitch until he's 50 and who you don't have to worry about blowing out his elbow, because he doesn't even have a UCL.

And, just because you can never have enough catching, the Jays adding approximately 28 catchers to their roster this year. But that's okay, because they've already traded away or released 23 of them.

So what does this all mean? Well, for starters, be wary of teams that are anointed champions during Spring Training, or before. Exhibit A: the 2012 Miami Marlins. This is especially problematic when you consider how many of those Marlins now have key roles on the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. However, Toronto's off-season acquisitions all seemed to have a purpose and fit in as part of a greater plan. With the Marlins, the feeling was more a case of "we've got this shiny new stadium, we better fill it with stars."

"Oh crap, we didn't get Pujols? Better sign another Latin star."

"We whiffed on C.J. Wilson? Who's the best available starter? Buehrle? Well, Buehrle it is, then."

(By the way, the Angels are another cautionary tale about Spring Training favorites. But at least they doubled down with Josh Hamilton, instead of punting after one season like the Marlins)

Anthopoulos came into the off-season with a plan, and he was fortunate enough to have bosses that endorsed and supported the plan. MLBDepthCharts listed the Blue Jays five biggest off-season needs as "Starter/Starter/2B/Left Field/Reliever." Mission accomplished:

Starter - Josh Johnson
Starter - R.A. Dickey
2B - Emilio Bonafacio/Macier Izturis
LF - Melky Cabrera
Reliever - Esmil Rogers

All that, plus another front-line starter (Buehrle), a massive upgrade at shortstop (Reyes) and the aforementioned catching surplus. True, they effectively swapped Travis d'Arnaud for Josh Thole, thus cementing J.P. Arencebia behind the plate, but all in all, the Blue Jays have built a lineup and pitching staff that should contend for the AL East crown.