Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Clone Breaks: 2017-18 UDH Series 1 (Part 3)

Rex's forces were decimated (again). He's the last man standing (again). He's in another do or die situation with incredible odds against him (again).

He's held out admirably but was getting pushed even further and further into the factory.

More trouble came when the First Order decided to crash the party.

Surrounded, Rex was ready for a shootout to the end.

But then the deus ex machina showed up in the form of Major Glory and Living Bullet. Both there to plug some movie or something.

They also brought along two Chytils. Torrens he is not, but he gets the job done. The Chytils and the two justice friends handled the first order and droids.

With the path out of the factory clear, it was up to Rex to deal with the heavy duty cannons that kept the rescue ships away.

Rex managed to take control of one of the cannons but then the computer on the cannon revealed that the planet was ordered to be destroyed from a giant moon far away.

Rex then changed the rescue plan to just have the frigate pick him and the others up without landing.

Thinking quickly, Rex destroyed as many of the cannons as he could and then took a jetpack that was just lying around. Then flew to the rendezvous spot along with the two heroes.

However, their troubles continued in the sky as droids chased them into the clouds.

Luckily the frigate managed to dispose of them and pick up our heroes before quickly leaving for hyperspace. Also the planet blew up :P.

Despite the narrow rescue, our heroes had learned that they were going up against an even bigger threat than they had imagined. Only thing going through Rex's head was when he was going to have to confront it.


And that wraps up the clone breaks posts for the hockey box. Thanks for sticking around lol. It's funny how even at the ripe old age of (early/mid-20's), my storylines when playing with toys are just as incoherent as they were when I was seven.

After a lengthly inner debate, I decided that I am going to go for building the 2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 set.

As far as the main base set goes I need the following:
11, 30, 45, 48, 58, 60, 68, 88, 103, 112, 120, 147, 154, 158, 166

I'm not too focused on the Young Guns right now (thanks a lot Hischier :P) but I might as well list them for convenience:
201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 227, 228, 229, 230, 231, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 249, 250

I have a feeling that this set is going to finally teach me how nauseatingly painful short prints are to set collectors. Like I said, Hischier is going to be a huge pain in the butt, especially if he reaches Auston Matthews or (God-forbid) Sidney Crosby levels. Ugh. A rookie card AND a short print, this should be interesting. Thank goodness I pulled a Boeser.

Also the 10 Chytil YG's goal is still on. Hoo-raw :P.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, January 29, 2018

Call Me Repair Man Man Man Man Man

So just because a blog bat around is from years ago doesn't mean I can't still talk about it right? Great, because there's a neat one I found not too long ago that I want to talk about even if it was from around the start of the decade.

Looking at the archives for various blogs brings up an interesting topic presented originally by Stale Gum.

The topic was, what would you do to fix Topps flagship? The only rule being that you have to keep the price to $2> per pack (before taxes).

This was shortly after 2011 Topps Series One had been released. Apparently everyone had opinions on the set (before we would all realize just how much worse flagship would become), and this one presented people with an opportunity to give more of them.

I'm a good seven years late but with 2018 Topps set to hit the shelves in two days I figure I'd put in my two cents. If your blog wasn't around in 2011, I'd recommend you chime in too.

Step 1: More Players

I know that a few other bloggers suggested this as well, and I'll suggest it too since it's a good idea.

It appears that between Series 1, 2 and Update, there's a total of 990 base cards (give or take). That's all fine and good until you realize that most of the Update checklist is garbage (stupid ASG cards) and not every player receives a card. Some no name on the Rays could carve out a 10 year career as a solid bench guy and they might get like 2-3 flagship cards tops (no pun intended) during that entire time. Well unspectacular, insignificant, forgettable teams like the Rays need cards too, I say bloat the checklist to four digit totals so all 750+ players can be properly represented between the three sets. Or as close as possible considering that some individuals may not have contract agreements with Topps in place. Just make the teams as close to equally represented in the base sets as you can, make the All Star Game cards short prints, and go ham with the favoritism all you want with the SSPs/SSSPs/SSSSPs/SSSSSPs etc...

Step 2: Bring Back Retail-Exclusive Parallels

When collectors talk about parallels, they often demand less of them. But in my case I want certain ones brought back.

Up until a few years ago you could find exclusive parallels at retail stores like Target (red), Walmart (blue) and Toys R us (purple). The first two stores have since dropped the retail only parallels (apparently they prefer exclusive products now) and with Toys R Us declaring bankruptcy I think the purple parallels are going to go bye-bye soon. Scratch that, I think they're gone given how I've seen jack regarding 2017 Update's purple parallels. Retail shoppers still get things like exclusive retail only inserts or those manufactured relics that come in blasters but they all suck donkey balls. I would much rather see a return of the colorful borders seeded at like one per pack or something.

And while we're at it, bring back the retail only format of the black parallels and throwback parallels too and print more of them. None of this serial numbered to 66 or 99 crap.

Step 3: More Than Just Players

When I said I wanted to inflate the checklist to the 1000's, I meant it. I mean why stop at just representing all 30 teams equally? Why not also focus on the managers, coaches and front office personnel? I'd love to get cards of key people like the manager, GM, the President of Baseball Ops, the shadow GM's with fancy titles, the director of player development, roving instructors, etc... In an age where we have access to so much information, knowing who exactly is running the show has never been easier (and important).

Although to be fair these might be better served as inserts. Either way I still think it'd be neat to have cards of in charge of making lineups and in charge of creating teams that can make lineups in the first place.

That said just keep it to people actually involved with the baseball aspects of the team. No one wants "anonymous executives."

Step 4: Different Photos From Opening Day/Team Sets/Topps Chrome/Topps Chrome Update

This is a pretty common opinion. It's no secret that Topps tends to just rehash the same images over and over again for Opening Day, Flagship, the team sets, Topps Chrome and occasionally Topps Chrome Update. So I recommend that they use different pictures for all of them. Would be kind of neat to see different photographs used on basically the same design in a context that DOESN'T involve shortprints.

Step 5: Stop With The Inserts That Have Blank Spaces


Back in 2012 I remember a lot of the inserts pissing me off because there was a whole lot of unnecessary space left open. I think the idea was so the card could look nice when a sticker autograph (or an actual on-card autograph) was applied to it, but that doesn't excuse how ugly the unstickered cards (which outnumber the autographed cards BTW) look.


Plus it's not even a card worth getting ink on. I mean what kind of person is going to want to get a turd like this signed? If you're a normal person with even the slightest bit of taste you can find loads of cards better than these lousy inserts to either get ink or have a sticker autograph on. Admittedly I haven't kept up with flagship since like 2013 so I'm not sure if these kinds of inserts are around anymore, but if they're still around I hope these needlessly empty cards go away.

Step 6: Revamp The Boxed Complete Sets

This is straying from the topic at hand but it's kind of related. Have you ever seen those $50 boxed complete sets of flagship at your local big box store or LCS? Well if you have you're probably like me in thinking they could use some work. Starting with how they only do Series 1 and 2. I've long held the opinion that if Topps is just going to package the entire flagship set into one entity for lazy people then they might as well include Update.

For another thing the special bonuses could be improved. Something more than a shiny refractor of a player from the past with a selection of five random variation cards. I mean those are a good starting point, but maybe bring the number of variations up and then take the lazy route of just chucking an autograph in there. If I'm paying $40+ for something I'd better be getting an autograph. To keep costs low, 28 of the 30 autographs will be garbage barely worth the shipping fee on eBay and the last two will be Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. All sticker autographs.

Recently Topps has started opting for relics. Which is nice, but unless it's a patch or something limited to like five copies it's still not worth it.

So here were the best ideas I could come up with to "help" Topps flagship. The fact that these were the best of the best should indicate just how horrible the rest of them were.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Uncanny Valley

Whenever we see something that's humanoid and eerily similar to us, we tend to have something go off in our heads that tells us that something about what we're seeing is off. This phenomenon is known as the Uncanny Valley.

This is a concept I've been thinking about in recent times after reading a few articles that sort of interest me.

The most recent and probably notable case of uncanny valley that the world at large experienced were the appearances of Grand Moff Tarkin and Leia Organa in the Star Wars movie, Rogue One.

A lot of think pieces and articles were written about the CGI faces used to bring the late Peter Cushing back to life and the late Carrie Fisher back to her 20's. At the core of most of them was how the uncanny valley alarm among the viewers and critics alike went haywire. Something felt, wrong.

Several of the think pieces I read brought up a small but also important point, the Tarkin Face was Disney/the film industry's first big attempt to recreate a human using advanced A.I. technology. It certainly will not be their last. Technology has grown so rapidly that this is possible now. But unlike the CGI human renders or past recreations of the human face, this time it was really meant to make you think that Cushing was there. I think that's partly why it got the massive reaction that it did. It tried to convince you, and it failed, but it came closer than it ever did before.

Actually, I think it's pretty much a given that more advancements are coming since even people without Disney's billions of dollars backing them have been able to run similar face creating algorithms, like people who can make fake Gal Gadot porn (it's a link to a Vice article, not actual porn).

Fake Faces Made By Nvidia (From The Nerdist)

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if various industries started to take advantage of this face creation technology in other ways. The New York Times had a pretty good article on how A.I. technology has managed to reach a point where it can create very real faces of humans who don't even exist. It's hard to convince people using a fake recreation of a real face, but it's not nearly as hard to convince people using a fake face of a person who doesn't even exist. All of the people who've been catfished on online dating services can attest to that. I can already hear marketing departments everywhere salivate over the thought of using fake people in advertisements and commercials so they don't have to pay any real people or any of those stock photo companies for that matter.

I mean photoshop and photo manipulation has been in existence for decades, but now we're getting to a point where those altered and possibly fake individuals can now move. They can speak (voice manipulation is another growing A.I. trick BTW). All it needs is feelings and that movie Her is going to look like an augury.

As much as I want to have an angle on this, I can't say that I think this is good or bad. At least not yet anyway. Right now I think it's just another A.I. algorithm that's going to shove itself into our lives in a sneaky way like the how most apps in the late 2000's and early 2010's have done. Will it be used in bad ways by bad people? Yes, at the end of the day this is a tool to be used by people with their own agendas and plans. Will uncomfortable questions about morals and what's "real" persist? Yes. As much as I'd hate to say it, there's probably going to be some unfortunate incident where a person gets hurt (or worse, God forbid) in a way that somehow involves this tool that forces the nation/world to sit down and ask itself the hard questions because it needs an answer quickly. Of course that answer will never come because humans are dumb and the needs of the shareholders outweigh the needs of the many.

Straight Outta Cooperstown

I guess I'll just finish this post with how it might apply to baseball cards.
It won't. Or at least I don't think it will. At most this just gives card companies a new tool to create poses of players who're either dead or old. I don't think it's seriously going to be in consideration for the companies until they find that running the A.I. technology is significantly cheaper than what it'd cost to pay photographers for their work. I'm pretty sure they're still going to have to pay money to the MLB/Players Association/players themselves for their likeness regardless.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Yudai Kawai

This Yudai (not Ohno) autograph was the one player autograph I picked up that had the largest print run.

A whopping 110 copies.

Yudai Kawai had a pretty solid career as an amateur in high school and college but because his schools never made it to any of the big country wide tournaments he largely went unnoticed. It wasn't until he played in the industrial league for the Nihon Tsu-Un (a shipping company) that he started getting the attention of scouts. The Chunichi Dragons caught wind of his potential and drafted the southpaw in the fourth round of the 2004 NPB Player Draft.

Armed with a fastball, a slider, a curveball and a curveball, Kawai had a pretty solid career where he spent all thirteen seasons with the Dragons.

The O-blood type lefty made it to the ichigun (Japanese big leagues) in 2005 but he was sent down for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. After toiling away in the minors and showing that he nothing more to prove, he was called up in 2008 again and this time up for good. That said his career went through a lot of ups and downs.

In 2009 he won 11 straight starts at the beginning of the season and cruised his way to a 11-5 record in 20 games. Recording career highs in wins and games pitched. However the year afterwards, he found himself on the shelf due to injuries, and the few games he did appear in were pretty bad. In 2011 he rebounded nicely but in 2012 he couldn't found the strikezone and pitched his way back down to the minors for pretty much all of 2013. In 2014 he had one more season with the big league Dragons where he appeared in over a dozen games and found himself in the rotation by the end of the season (again). I'm not entirely sure where he was in 2015 but he was apparently no where to be found. He was probably hurt. In 2016 he gave being a professional baller one last shot before he hung up the spikes for good. Now he works as a scout for the Dragons.

One of the more notable things about Yudai Kawai is that he shortened his name from Kawai Yudai (in Japan we write the last name first), then was just Yudai, then went back to Kawai Yudai when he retired. Okay maybe not notable but either way his name would've allowed American sports writers to have a field day if he ever came stateside. Both of the Dragons' Yudai's should've come to the bigs IMHO. Yudai Kawai and Yudai Ohno on the same team. The puns!

So there was the first Dragons post I've done in far too long, hope you all enjoyed it. There is a lot more to come trust me.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Leftover From 2017

In the waning days of 2017, a few last minute things arrived in the mail that I didn't really get to blog about. Might as well wrap it up with the last one.

Torrens card number 115 (or 114, as my Excel spreadsheet seems to indicate) is this orange mini.
For whatever reason, the 2017 edition of Topps mini is not hitting the shelves (read: eBay) as much as they did in years prior. I've read that people who ordered the cards online had issues getting them in hand. Also the price-to-card ratio made a lot of folks reluctant to pick up any in the first place.

The market is so nill on these that I don't even have the base mini yet. So far I've got the blue numbered to 10 and the orange numbered to 25 above. All I need now are the red (numbered to five), gold (the 1/1) and the base. The chase for Torrens' return to cardboard rages onward.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Friday, January 19, 2018

Shadow Of A Doubt

The Lost Collector recently blogged about a Jeff Nelson autograph card he had snagged. In the post he brought up the trade that brought Jeff Nelson along with TLC's favorite player Tino Martinez and Jim Mecir to the Bronx from Seattle.

Obviously I'm going to touch upon the two prospects sent to the Mariners. Mainly because they both came in this huge lot of cards sent to me last year by San Jose Fuji. Plus it gives me a good time to dive back into the 1990's world of Yankees prospecting.

One of the two players that were sent to Seattle was Sterling "Octo" Hitchcock.
Hitchcock is largely forgotten nowadays but he was a name in the early 90's. Drafted out of high school, Hitchcock was selected by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 1989 MLB Player Draft. Sterling was a pretty big deal for the Yankees back in the day as he was the seventh best Yankees prospect in 1990 according to Baseball Americam and even made a few top 100 prospects lists. But more than that, he was a fast mover who put up pretty good numbers in the minors (a 9-1 W-L record in rookie ball) and he threw a no hitter in 1990 as part of the Greensboro Hornets. The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers lists Hitchcock's arsenal as including a fastball, a "split finger" fastball, a sinker and a slider. Although there were rumors here and there that he also had a change-up at one point. In an interview with Fine Magazine, Hitchcock himself explained that his fastballs were around 89-91 mph. In the same interview Hitchcock stated that the splitter is what he himself considered his best pitch.

Hitchcock made his MLB debut in 1992 as a late September callup, fresh off of a season where he performed relatively well in double-A. Hitchcock was one of the new up-and-coming youngsters as part of the Yankees' then rebuild, something that the Yankees had difficulty handling. To the point where Hitchcock even voiced his frustrations with Yankees management and their reluctance to really give the young callups a better look/more development time in the big leagues. A sentiment I probably would've agreed with if I was alive/cared about baseball in The Boss era.

Still, after spending 1993 and 1994 up-and-down between triple-A and the big leagues (with a short lived stint as a reliever tossed in to make things extra weird), Hitchcock managed to stay with the big league club in 1995. He was a full time starter and had his moments like when he threw a complete game shutout against the Orioles (the first of his career and the first Yankees shutout of the 1995 season). He also pitched in the game that cliched the Wild Card Game for the Yankees. Overall he put up double digit wins and was worth 2.2 WAR in 1995 and even made two appearances in relief in the 1995 ALDS after the David Cone trade pushed him out of the rotation.

Then Hitchcock was sent to the Mariners in the 1995-96 offseason as part of the Tino Martinez trade described at the start of this post. Hitchcock managed to find his groove in Seattle, or at least managed to be clear of mind from having to compete in a jam packed rotation where one slip up means you're headed back to triple-A.

But Hitchcock was on the move again as he was traded to the San Diego Padres in the 1996-97 offseason for Scott Sanders. Hitchcock's first season in San Diego was fair overall but a bit underwhelming, to the point where he was moved back to the bullpen after the Padres acquired Mark Langston. But 1998 would be a special year for both Hitchcock and the Padres. Hitchcock's regular season was okay but Hitchcock's postseason performance saw him back in the rotation and going up against the likes of Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, beating them en route to a National League Championship and an NLCS MVP award. Hitchcock made one start in the 1998 World Series against the Yankees (and David Cone ironically), in which he lost. The Padres were swept by the Yankees in the series as their dynasty officially took off.

Hitchcock had one more good season in San Diego but around the turn of the century injuries started to take their toll on Hitchcock. In 2000 he underwent Tommy John Surgery and was never quite the same. The Padres eventually traded Hitchcock to the Yankees who used him more as a reliever. Hitchcock had another chance to win a World Series ring with the Yankees in 2001 but unfortunately that wasn't meant to be. Hitchcock was later traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003 (in the trade that brought over future Yankees minor league coach/manager Justin Pope). Hitchcock gave baseball one more shot with the Padres in 2004 but he called it quits not long after.

The other prospect sent to Seattle in the Tino trade was Russ Davis.
Another notable name if you followed the Yankees farmsystem three decades ago, Davis was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 29th round (29th!) of the 1988 MLB Player Draft. Drafted out of high school Davis' development was slow but steady. As best I can gather, Davis always had some scouts and fans in the know high on his offensive potential from draft day, but he really put himself on the prospect map around 1990 when he swatted 16 dingers with a .730 OPS in 137 games in high-A. For a 29th rounder he was starting to generate a bit of buzz as a future power hitting slugger. Baseball America had Russ Davis as the 9th best Yankees prospect in 1991. 1991 was a bit of a step back for Davis who struggled a bit in double-A, but in 1992 he managed to come back strong and hit 22 dingers. His continued growth in triple-A in 1993 made him a desirable asset. 1993-94 was all about Davis-mania, the high point undoubtly being when Kin started to collect him Around this time rival GM's brought up Davis' name in potential trades with the Yankees (most notably for something called an Andy Benes), but the Yankees managed to keep their third base prospect. 1994 was when it was really looking as though Davis would be on the cusp of a big league callup as excitement filled the air in Spring Training. It was technically true as Davis did make his MLB debut in 1994 for a brief four game cameo. By 1995 the Davis hype died down a bit, to the point where the Montreal Expos picked Fernando Seguignol over him in the John Wetteland trade (Seguignol would later go on to have a pretty nice career in Japan BTW and is now the Marlins' Director of International Operations). At the time Davis was blocked at third base by Wade "Chicken Man" Boggs, and first base was Don Mattingly's (whenever he wasn't hurt), but he still managed to get 40 MLB games on his resume in 1995.

Then Davis was sent to Seattle. A move was fairly inevitable as Boggs wasn't going anywhere (again, I probably would've disliked how The Boss ran things). Davis had a chance to be a starting third baseman on a MLB team but a broken leg and ankle injury took away half of his 1996 season. In 1997 he returned strong and hit 20 dingers alongside the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez but another ankle injury ended his 1997 prematurely.

Although there was a lot to like about his bat, it was becoming a bit easier to see why the Yankees kept him in triple-A for more seasoning. His bat projected to do fine as a big leaguer but his glovework and defense at the hot corner left a bit to be desired. Russ did his best to improve his defense, but it still led to hecklers bringing it up and getting on his nerves. It certainly didn't help when the Mariners tried him out in the outfield. Still, Davis was a serviceable 3B/1B/DH type (I think Seattle has a fetish for those types TBH) good for another 41 dingers in 1998 and 1999 combined. He even hit the first dinger at Safeco field in 1999.

In 2000 the free agent Davis signed with the San Francisco Giants where he did his best but he still put up relatively down year. Davis and the Giants gave it one last shot in 2001 but halfway through he was released and Davis hung up the spikes for good after that.

As for the Yankees, well, you should all be pretty familiar with what happened to three that came to the Bronx (or at least two of them).

Tino Martinez went on to be the Yankees' 1B for the bulk of the dynasty until the team deemed Nick Johnson was ready signed Jason Giambi. Martinez's highlights of his Yankees tenure included four World Series Championships, being The Lost Collector's OG super player collection, and a brawl with Armando Benitez.

Jeff Nelson went on to be a good reliever for the Yankees and proved to be a key cog in a bullpen that already had an unfair advantage with names like Wetteland and Mariano Rivera thrown in. He's still considered enough of a fan favorite to have Yankees cards here and there :P.

Jim Mecir didn't do a whole lot. By 1997 he found himself on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and retired in 2005. But he was mentioned a lot in Moneyball (the book).

Looking back on this trade, it's pretty clear that the Yankees won it. That said the Mariners got some decent production out of Davis and Hitchcock for the time they were there too.  Rumor has it that the prospects SEA wanted back were going to either come down to Hitchcock or Andy Pettitte, had Seattle taken the latter I think we'd be looking at a different outcome altogether. Still, Hitchcock managed to carve out a decent career for himself and managed to make himself a part of an important part of Padres history. Davis still has his fair share of fans from his time as a Mariners masher.

The 90's era of prospecting interests me because what appears to be the underlying truth is that everyone was horrible at it. I mean it's not like things are more "guaranteed" now, but I think it's fair to say the Yankees are better at it now than they were, say, before 2012 :P. Actually I think it's a fact that most teams are better at scouting and developing now than they've ever been before. Teams have access to so much more technology, information and data of both the quantitative and qualitative variety that it's not out of the realm of possibility for a nothing to turn into a something. In a way it's amazing that the Yankees managed to get the Core Five (with a few supporting guys here and there) with the system at all. But of course the damn Yankees get everything they want, don't they ;). Except Luis Torrens *cries*.

So big thanks to The Lost Collector for inspiring a pretty fun post, and big thanks to San Jose Fuji for sending the awesome cards. I'm sure that there'll be future installments of these 90's prospect reviews as time goes on. Lots of great cards are scanned and ready thanks to Fuji.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Impulse Purchase 3

During the waning days of December, I placed a bid on this relic card of Japanese model Mai Hakase and somehow won. It's a piece of the camisole clothing she has on there and it's numbered 133/380.

The back is a close up shot of Ms. Hakase. She just got her own card set released last year, and at age 30 has managed to keep up in an industry where only the youngest and newest can survive. Although at this point she's trying to transition more towards acting and more than just modeling.

Between the only two relics I picked up in 2017 I still think the Honoka sock relic is better but the camisole gave it a nice run for it's money.

As nice as these two are. This is why I gave myself such harsh grades on my budget goal for 2017 and why I need to be even more careful with my spending this year :P.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Super Late

In passing I mentioned how I arranged to get a J.T. Miller Young Guns card sent to me. It was in preparation for his signing event at a bar in NYC.

It arrived two weeks after the event had happened.

What happened?

Well first off I bought the card from Canada. I knew that it would then be considered international shipping but I picked this one because it had Free Shipping.

I knew that international items can take time but I made sure to get the item roughly three weeks before the Miller signing event. If I've had packages and letters from foreign countries (with free shipping) reach me in two weeks in the past, so why the heck not? Plus the estimated arrival period was right where I wanted it to be.

I guess I should've known better than to trust the postal delivery service, even if it was late November/early December. The card finally arrived a week and then some after the end of the estimated delivery time period. I kept in contact with the seller who was super nice and helpful, but it ended in the 3rd best case scenario where the card arrived, but it arrived late.

It's a shame because this card would've looked fantastic with a crisp blue sharpie signature on it. I specifically picked this card because A). rookie card and B). the white ice in the back (and Miller's uni) makes it a perfect specimen to contrast with the ink.

Instead I scrambled with what I had and settled for the 2017-18 Upper Deck base card. It's not bad and I still like it but, I can't help but wonder what might've been if the YG had come in time.

So lesson learned. Buy international cards with the Free Shipping option if you're either not in a hurry or if you can afford to think ahead 2-3 months in advance of whatever plans you have for it.

And if you're in a real hurry, go the domestic route and swallow the $3 shipping fee.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Friday, January 12, 2018

Too Good To Pass Up

Three days. Three days into 2018 and I already managed to make accomplishing one of my New Years Resolutions for 2018 difficult.

I bought a baseball card on eBay.

Decent deals don't come around too often. At least not when you're dealing with niche names like I do. Of course the odds were broken as a very reasonable listing appeared right when I declared I'd go into penny pinching mode.

It included not one...

...but seven Luis Torrens Bowman Chrome autographs. Seven. This type of lot never shows up. Only when someone decides to cut their losses and start to sell off their collection.

But the lot didn't end there.

Accompanying the bases were two refractor autographs.

So nine cards in all with seven base and two refs. What did this run me? Well I could've gotten one and a half blaster boxes with that money. Not that I would've but, considering how there was another lot of BoChro Torrens autos on eBay for basically twice the amount (and with zero ref autos) you can see why this is one of the better lot deals to come around.

As a guy who has studied and observed the Torrens "market" for years, the ideal price of a single LT BoChro base auto is $3, and the ideal price of a ref auto is $5. Any higher than that and you're getting a bad deal. These prices are just for the card itself BTW and doesn't include shipping fee's. By my own standards I managed to come out ahead by $1 in this deal (30 vs 31). That's not insignificant.

But what really made this a bargain for me is that it had free shipping. Obviously I don't take shipping into account for valuing cards individually, but I do at the time of purchasing stuff. If I had had to pay an extra $3-5 for shipping I might've actually let it pass. But it wasn't, it was like what Giancarlo Stanton was to Brian Cashman, a deal that was too good to turn down.

Plus one of my goals coming into this year was to get to 10 Bowman Chrome base autographs of Luis Torrens. Now I'm at 15, which means that I'm going to be eying 20 next.

So while this deal was good and all, this means I'll have to really make sure I don't spend money on cards in February and five other months during the year if I want to pass my goal. Also, I decided to add an addendum to my spending goal. For the six months where I probably will buy cards, I have to keep it to a $50 limit.

Admitting that I might probably spend $300 on cards this year makes me feel really pathetic and like I'm wasting money that can go towards food. But then I look at my year end statements on Paypal for 2017 and realize that I can do so much worse. Wish me luck while you all simultaneously laugh at me for throwing money away.

My consolation prize is that I can say that I have a decent stash going now.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Favourite Card of 2017

Oh dear, looks I missed another contest. Oh well ;).

Back in 2017 P-Town Tom started a contest where you just had to blog about what you deemed to be your favourite card of 2017. For the longest time I really struggled with this one. Why?


Well because the obvious pick, isn't it.

I'm not sure what it is, but something has kept me from declaring Torrens' rookie card from being my favourite. There's just something wrong with it.

I had to really dig deep to unearth exactly why I had issues with it and I've assembled this list of pros and cons.

*Helped me get over the 100 Torrens cards mark thanks to the endless number of parallels it spawned and will continue to spawn

The first reason alone should be reason enough to declare it my favourite. It would be everybody else right? And yet. I don't know. Something still feels off.

*It's an unflattering picture
*Torrens is a Padre
*Bad photo choice
*Card design kinda stinks
*Who picked that photo?!

I guess something that's always bothered me is that the picture is of Torrens running. That in itself isn't bad, but he's a catcher. That allows for lots of possibilities in terms of neat action shots and I think Topps blew it.

A quick look at GettyImages reveals a bunch of glorious catching gear shots that I definitely think would've been a lot better.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Seriously, these are all wonderful. Kudos to the photographers for the amazing photos.

This isn't my favorite card of 2017 either

It certainly doesn't help that Topps had enough sense to use this really cool shot for some injury prone quad-A guy like Kyle friggin' Higashioka of all people. Assuming that the same people were in charge of picking the photographs, they could've easily done the same for Torrens. What? Were there worries that people were going to think the two photos look too similar? Every other card in flagship is usually a generic pitcher grimacing while pitching shot or a hitter hitting at the plate shot, recurring photo choices are a stable in the card world at this point.

Because the photograph choice is iffy, the design of the card starts to come under scrutiny too. Like, no card design could have ever saved that photograph let's be honest. You could put the 2011 or 1975 templates on that picture and it would still stink. Personally I think the 2017 Topps design with it's poor-man's-version-of-2013 design works with some cards, and doesn't with others. This is one of those times that it doesn't work.

You know it's bad when the least off putting thing of all is that Torrens is a Padre. I mean look, I'm glad Torrens is a big leaguer and everything, I've come to terms with how he's on a different team now. But a lot of the vibes I've gotten from the Padres camp (and a big chunk of their fanbase) is that they don't care about Torrens. Or maybe I just need to stop thinking a few Padres fans on Twitter speak for the entire organization and fanbase :P. Or maybe they genuinely only care about Hedges?! Either way Yankees fans still care, bring him home!

Man, who knew I could get this upset over a card lol?
I mean, I don't know... I try not to be a stickler for photos, but in this case I can't change how I think the bad photo selection is enough to keep US32 away from being the best card of 2017. With a better photograph I probably wouldn't have cared about the team or the design. It checks off all of the key requirements except the biggest one.

Actually (I'm having an epiphany here guys), I'm probably being silly and making too big a fuss over a picture. In a lot of ways it's not the worst picture ever. Francisco Cervelli's rookie card didn't even have the right guy in the photograph (that's Austin Jackson BTW). The 2017 flagship design is, serviceable. Padres fans have already been through enough this winter by getting their hopes up for Shohei Ohtani (and look how that turned out) and don't need an idiot like me harping on them. And while Higgy may be made of glass, he does his best (although that's clearly not enough).

My expectations for a Torrens RC were probably way too high. Short of the Topps editing team actually having me tell them how I want the Torrens card to look, I was probably never going to be satisfied. I was always going to want that cool shot of Torrens in catching gear. Anything less would have been poo poo to me. Even with all of this said though, the photo choice is still poo poo and Topps totally should've gone with this shot.

Embed from Getty Images

Sidenote, I await a message telling me that there was some deep personal meaning to Torrens or somebody behind the photo and why Topps used it, all just to make me feel like a jackass.

Anyway, where does this leave me in terms of the best card of 2017? Well first we have to tackle two existential questions. Like how I can really justify picking a card that doesn't/can't check off all of the boxes the Torrens card (as flawed as it is) did. Or if a card can really be the best of 2017 for me if it can't even complete the essential task of being a Luis Torrens card.

Luckily for me and my dilemma, PTT already picked a non-Vogelbach card as his best of the year. Allowing me to throw that monkey off of my back. Unlike me, PTT had dozens upon dozens of Vogelmonsters to pick from. A lot of them with really sick patches at that, woof.

Alright, I've written enough words about the third best card of 2017 (according to me). Yes, you read that correctly, third. Meaning the number one spot ultimately came down to two cards which were both unique and yet really similar. It was hard but I did pick one sole winner.

It is...

2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey #132 Kevin Hayes

It came down to this card and the Don Mattingly shortprint. Both for the same reason, top notch photography that centered on the subjects showing fan service.

As you can probably tell, both of these are pretty similar and Donny Baseball had a lot of great things going for it. But ultimately it came down to how two things really put Hayes up on top.

The first is that the Hayes was taken at Madison Square Garden. The Mattingly photograph was taken during Spring Training. Fan interaction at Spring Training is a lot easier because ST happens at minor league ballparks where things like that happen regularly. But at big metropolitan venues that are home to first class shows and events (and the Knicks) like the Garden? To me that makes getting closer to the stars much more difficult/harder, and in turn that much more special.

The second is that Upper Deck's minimal card design hides less of the card than the 2017 Topps design does on the Mattingly. When I blogged about the Mattingly I mentioned how the original shot had somebody taking a photograph of Mattingly underneath him while he signed autographs. The Topps design, as sleek as it is, unfortunately hid their presence and ruined the Mattingly SP's chance of being the greatest photograph of 2017. That one element could've made a huge difference. Although to be fair, the cropped image would've reduced the photographer to a camera and part of a right arm. Still, the key word is "could've" and we'll never really know.

I actually tracked down the original picture used for the Hayes card on Getty Images (I won't embed or show the original picture because it looks like the photographer, Jared Silber, hasn't allowed others to embed it so I respect their wishes). While there is somebody (who is just standing around and not taking photographs) looking at Hayes that is hidden by the UD design bar, it's not as blocked as the camera person was on the Mattingly card since a simple crop reveals you could only see like their forehead at best. Also they look like an adult and as much as I don't want to age discriminate, their omission on the card helps keep the card in this awesome space where it looks like Hayes is just surrounded by excited kids all reaching out their hands to one of their favorite players and he's giving them pucks and high fives.

Also thanks to the original picture I was able to tell that the player that you can just barely see on the right is number 18, Marc Staal. Who you might recall is one of my favorites. Consider that the third point in Hayes' favor.

It was a well fought battle for sure but ultimately the Hayes managed to beat Don the Man for my favourite card of 2017.

This whole exercise taught me something about myself (Tom has indeed lived up to his billing as a teacher), in that I do consider the photograph to be a significant part of a card. Seems obvious since that's the only thing we really see when we look at cards, but I'm just surprised that it matters THIS much to me. As much as I try to appreciate all art (I go to the Met, MoMa and Guggenheim as often as I can for the record), unfortunately I can't appreciate all of it. Photography is art too and falls under that same subjective criteria I have for it. The name can only carry a card so far.

Right so Kevin Hayes, Zippy's card of the year in 2017. With Don Mattingly not too far behind him at second and Luis Torrens in the reluctant three hole.

What a year.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, January 8, 2018

Let It Snow

So you've probably heard that winter is cold. Especially this winter where temperatures are regularly around negative degrees celsius. Just recently NYC got a blizzard that proved to be more wind than snow, which kind of explains why it's so freaking cold.

I appear to be one of the few people in my circle/area/species who actually likes snow. Or at least doesn't flat out hate it. I mean I get it, we homo-sapiens are tropical creatures. We're probably better suited for jungles and very damp, moist, humid areas as opposed to snowy, icy tundra.

My motto has always been to survive by wearing lots of layers. It's probably just me but I always wear three layers of clothes once the lows start hitting the 10 degrees celsius mark in December and once they hit zero I add a fourth/fifth. I prepare two scarves in my backpack, and also two hats (a knitted hat and an overly large New Era had above it) to protect my hair that I keep long on purpose in the winter (no joke, my hair's just as long as my girlfriend's now). And for added security I keep napkins in the jacket pockets, and two layers of gloves (rubber gloves and a regular gloves on top). Of course with Timberland boots because Nu Yawk. I look ridiculous/fat but we'll see who has the last laugh when they have to walk to the store in knee-deep snow because the roads are blocked and you're out of milk.

Snow has become the scapegoat as everything wrong about winter. Personally I assign blame for why winter is so cold on wind. Blasted wind blowing snow in your face and piercing whatever clothes you have on that wasn't specifically built to combat it (windbreakers are your best friend folks!). Where was this wind when I was burning to death in July?!

But it has it's positives. As a kid I loved getting days off of school thanks to the snow. When it snows the temperature usually rises thanks to increased humidity (kind of like when it warms up a bit when it rains in fall). It can create some of the visually stunning scenes in nature ever (which are usually the uninhabited ones). Plus playing in the snow can be a lot of fun, even as an adult.


Like how I've had this quasi-yearly tradition where I take a trench run picture of Poe Dameron's X-Wing in the snow. Obviously it's nothing like the actual scene but as more blizzards hit NYC at the start of the year, the more I'm willing to keep this going.



One of these days I'm going to make the porch light green for the sake of making it seem even remotely close to the original.

So winter is here. It's cold, our heating bills are going up, everyone else is saying they'd prefer to be melting in 40 degrees c weather (remember that when summer rolls around), northerners keep complaining about the snow and smug ex-northerners who moved down south will keep reminding everyone that they don't regret leaving for Key West.

Their loss. You haven't lived until you've had sex in the snow.

Of course snow has it's drawbacks too. It takes a lot of work to clear from your driveway, it tends to clump up and get harder/turn into ice, the sludge it leaves on the roads are disgusting, it can delay traffic for hours.

As always thanks for stopping by. To my fellow northerners, stay warm and please take extra special precaution when traveling. Wear multiple layers of clothing before you leave the house regardless of how much that down jacket makes you look like the Michelin Man. Then again, I assume a lot of you already know this. I mean I'm in NYC where it's cold but usually not AS cold as say... Buffalo or Peoria. Woof.

Take care :).