Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Just Like I Thought

A while ago I blogged about a bunch of local malls. Fast forward to early July and I decided to visit the malls (sans the one with the DMV in it) again. Mainly to get out of the heat and humidity and into the AC. Also because I was really curious if the retailers around there could really survive. Toys R Us finally kicked the bucket, and my semi-local Wal-Mart is due to go kaputski in about a week or so. So what about the smaller stores inside the malls then?

Remember this sports memorabilia store I mentioned?

Well when I blogged about it last time I figure that it'd go out of business relatively quickly in spite of it being very new. Mainly because premier sports memorabilia is a very very niche market, and my local area isn't exactly one with people looking to dump hundreds upon thousands on old game used Wayne Gretzky jerseys or autographed Joe DiMaggio bats. I'm a sports fan and anything you'd see sold there are VERY low on my priority list.

And I was right. In the five months that had passed since my last visit, the shop closed down and the space became vacant again.

This is pretty much why I'll never consider going into the business of selling sports cards or sports memorabilia. It's really really tough. For one thing the economy still sucks. Also, the average person probably isn't interested in dropping a bunch of money on novelty times. And if you want to appeal specifically to sports fans, you're outta luck there because they're usually frugal. Not all of them, but I'd wager that a good percentage of them are. I'm including myself in that BTW, I'm cheap af.

I mean this is basically why ticket prices for baseball games are getting pricier and pricier. They could lower the tickets to sell more of them, but marketing teams learned a long time ago that inviting the low-budgeted fans (which I'd wager makes up the majority of every fanbase) means just getting more people who don't spend money on stuff like jerseys or food after they enter the stadium. So their solution for a while now has been to slowly raise prices so only people with money (and willing to spend money) attend. Or at least feel compelled to spend since they made the investment to watch a game in the stadium anyway.

Basically, their strategy is trying to get one person who'll spend a million dollars at the stadium as opposed to getting thousands of people who won't even pay $10 for anything. It is what it is.

Anyway, I'm sure the bigger names and brands like Steiner will still be around because they have strong connections to teams and players (especially the Yankees, Knicks, Rangers and Devils). But in our post-2008 economy a lot of the smaller ones should either be dead or on their deathbed at this point. I will not miss them since I have all of the memorabilia I could ever want.

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How I #Prospect

A few years ago I was asked how one prospects, and here in 2018 I finally got a post up about how people usually go about in the prospect game. Or at least a very rough outline for how prospecting is like in the cardboard world (again, don't look to that post as a guide to make money, because it's not).

But after that post went up I thought about the time Nick The Dime Box King mentioned how I prospect in the "true sense of the word", and I can't really say if that's accurate. Recently I've been mainly thinking A). if my way of "prospecting" is even prospecting at all, and B). what even is my way of "prospecting" in the first place?

When you think of prospecting in the cardboard hobby context, chances are you associate it with people investing lots of money into Bowman Chrome autographs hoping to flip them for bigger bucks down the line. That's really the gist of it isn't it?

In that regard I'm not a prospector at all then. I mean sure I have built up a nice collection of Luis Torrens BoChro autos, but I'm not looking at them as an investment or whatever. They're my collection of cards that I have no real long term goal for other than to simply "accumulate and continue to accumulate".

But am I prospecting in the "true sense"? How do I prospect that way? What is the method to my madness? Is there a method?

Ultimately my prospecting objective is, in theory, very simple. Acquire an autograph of every prospect in the Yankees farmsystem. I mean this in the most extremest way too since I'd even be crazy enough to send requests to the Yankees' baseball camp in the Dominican Republic if I had the time and resources.

Now I'm going to stray from cards for a bit here. Because I need to talk about how a pre-requisite for this goal is knowing and learning about every player in the Yankees farmsystem. This is where Twitter is actually a huge help for me. Thanks to Twitter, I can keep up with live, up-to-the minute updates and reports on some of the most exciting names across all of the minor leagues. Even down in the unknown depths of the rookie ball leagues/extended spring training/Dominican Summer leagues. I'm aware that not taking everything you see on Twitter at face value is important, but I'm willing to be lenient for something as trivial as a beat reporter or scout tweeting about how much velo a pitching prospect had on their fastball.

I know some people feel overwhelmed when trying to look up information on players (believe me, I know), but this is where Twitter's way of throwing lots of shit onto your timeline/feed can be a big plus. At least for me anyway. I don't actively pursue information on Yankees prospects a lot of the time. What I do instead is I follow a plethora of writers, evaluators, scouts, and hardcore fans on Twitter who keep up with everything. They casually tweet/retweet out cool tidbits of information about certain prospects, and they just flow into my feed and then they flow into my brain when I see them. It's a very natural process that just happens, which is perfect for a bum like me who'd be too lazy to look up stuff on Google.

It's thanks to this method that I already have my eyes set on the next wave of really good Yankees prospects who don't have Bowman/Heritage/Pro Debut cards yet (note, a lot of these guys don't even have minor league cards yet). Here are some who've really left a great impression me during the first two months of the season based on what I've been seeing on social media (although I did double check with credible sources later to make sure that I'm not the idiot who's ONLY going on what Twitter says).

Garrett Whitlock - Right Handed Pitcher (Starter)
His four seam fastball has been said to sit in the mid-90 mph range and his sinker sits in the lower 90's. He also has a changeup and a mid-80's slider (although he himself is unsure if it's a slider or curveball). He's dominated the competition at Charleston this season and is already in high-A. He's remained dominant there too.

Erik Swanson - Right Handed Pitcher (Starter)
Swanson's made huge strides since coming over to the Yankees in the Carlos Beltran trade. Swanson at one point led all of the minor leagues in ERA this season. He has a low 90's fastball that moves so much that it's said to look like a slider, a curveball that can spin at 3,000 revolutions a minute, and a changeup. In double-A he's already curb stomped the competition by missing bats by the boatload. His pitches also induce weak contact, resulting in a lot of groundballs. Which given the Yankees' philosophy of deploying only elite defense (especially in the infield) is very welcome.

Trevor Lane - Left Handed Pitcher (Reliever)
Lane's climb has been steady and here in 2018 it's really looking like he's the next great Yankees relief prospect. He's so good that MLB.com at one point declared him the 27th best prospect in the Yankees org which, given how deep their system is, is no small thing. After switching some of his mechanics, he added some velocity to his fastball (it's now in the mid-90 mph range) and a devastating curveball. Throws in a change up every now and then too. He's straight up dominating and given how lefty relievers with his kind of skill are a valuable commodity in baseball, he'll probably be up in the bigs sooner rather than later.

I could go on and on because the list never ends. Seriously, even after those four there's Nick Nelson, Michael King, Luis Gil, Pedro Espinola, Luis Medina, Cody Carroll, Roansy Contreras, Juan Then, Brian Keller, JP Sears, Juan De Paula, Jio Orozco, Matt Wivinis, Nick Green, Glenn Otto, Trevor Stephan, Deivi Garcia, Nolan Martinez, Drew Finley, Clarke Schmidt and Matt Sauer too. Keep in mind that Chance Adams, Dillon Tate, Justus Sheffield, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Josh Rogers and Freicer Perez are still around too. It's bonkers just how much pitching talent is scattered throughout the system. It's like every day there's a Yankees pitching prospect doing something amazing.

Anyway, that needlessly long tangent was just to show that looking through Twitter to find this stuff makes it a lot easier to absorb. Keep in mind that that was just on pitching, if I included hitters we'd be here all day.
So yeah, I'm in a better position now to see who to look out for/be excited about. Out of all of the prospects I mentioned above, I think maybe 10 of them have cards right now, and that's including the minor league team issued cards. If I were to limit that to the mainstream Bowmans or Heritage Minors card, then that'd be even less (maybe five?).

So with all of that in mind, am I only prospecting by chasing the next big thing in the Yankees org?
I don't try to since in my book I just want to collect one autograph of every Yankees minor leaguer, but I suppose it's only natural that only the really really good prospects show up in my feed as opposed to someone who only projects to be org filler (and is really playing like it). But in the end all I want to do is be ahead of the curve and know who is coming next even before they even have any mainstream baseball cards. Although since the Yankees' prospect core is currently largely made up of fast movers and players acquired in trades, they're sometimes well beyond high-A. It happens.

For a self proclaimed prospector there are a bunch of holes in my autograph collection though. I still don't have Gleyber Torres, Albert Abreu, Clarke Schmidt or Jonathan Loaisiga's autographs. Even among the deep cuts I'm missing Everson Pereira, Antonio Cabello, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Juan Then, Yoendrys Gomez, and a bunch of other prospects the Yankees seem to grow on trees. Honestly, there is a part of me that thinks, "How can I declare myself a prospector if I don't even have a Donny Sands autograph yet?" and then I write myself off as a failure.

And then I look back at what I do have and realize that I'm in a better spot than most. I may not be going down to Charleston on an everyday basis getting autographs by the boatloads, nor am I buying the super expensive Bowman Chrome refractor autographs on release day, but I'm happy with what I've got and I relish/welcome the challenge of what/who is coming next.

I am very happy being firmly in second place behind The TTM King, The Lost Collector (don't let his words fool you, he got Pereira and Sands before I did, he's the GOAT!).

So there's the loosest and yet somehow the loftiest goal I've ever established for myself. Getting as many Yankees prospect autographs as I possibly can. No it's not doable at all, but the journey itself is very fun. In the years I've been following this path I've learned a lot and forgotten a lot, but the fact that I still have so much more to learn in this field keeps me very entertained and interested.

And as far as #Prospecting other non-Yankees prospects go, I usually follow a healthy number of Dodgers prospects and I write about at least one every year in my least-popular blog series ever. I do have some interest in Dragons prospects but there's not a lot to write home about there. The Cubbies have some super nice names in tow from time to time but their top guys usually make it to the bigs quickly and are then out of my jurisdiction. The Blue Jays have some nice talent as well (even beyond the second gen wonderkin) but I'm not in any rush to collect them or follow them all that closely. And although I don't particularly care for them that much, the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks are really really nice when it comes to fan service and autograph requests. Really makes me wish some of the nice kids they have there work out more than they usually do (which is almost never).

At the same time, you never really know when the Yankees'll acquire who. One minute someone's a top Cleveland prospect, the next minute, they're the guy everyone wants from the Yankees. It never hurts to cast a wide net.

So all in all that is how I #prospect. For the sake of early association and endless accumulation :P.

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

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Animal I've Become

Yesterday I went to a Staten Island Yankees doubleheader. Why? Because the Staten Island Yankees team set came out.

That can mean only one thing.

Zippy Zappy goes full beast mode on the autograph front.

BTW, the cards all feature photographs by the Staten Island Yankees' team photographer Robert Pimpsner of Pinstriped Prospects.

My first autograph of the day came from Danienger Perez. I'd love to give these guys all a paragraph for themselves but that would make this post way too long. So in the interest of saving time I'm just going to say a few short sentences. Like how Perez here is a utility infielder from Venezuela.

Next up is Jesus Bastidas. An infielder from Venezuela.

This is former big league pitcher Travis Phelps who now works as a pitching coach. He's looking after some premo talent this year.

Next up is Eduardo Torrealba. A Venezuelan infielder who was originally signed by the Red Sox but his contract was voided after the Red Sox were discovered to have used shady methods to sign international free agent.

Here is Dominican outfielder Andy Diaz. After a hot start to his career offensively he's taken a few steps back. The potential is still there but the time to unlock it is running out.

Next up is the Yankees' 14th round pick in this year's draft, Kyle Gray. Someone alert Matt, we've got a WVU alum here!

Here is Canaan Smith, who's missed some time recently due to minor injuries. Hopefully he can put together a strong finish to 2018.

Next up is Jerry Seitz. A Venezuelan catcher who is looking more and more like org depth.

Here is Junior Soto, a Dominican outfielder who was originally signed by the Cleveland Indians but was drafted by the Yankees in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft last winter.

Here is Ricardo Ferreira. Ferreira is a Dominican outfielder. He's got some power and speed but has yet to put it all together.

Next up is Eric Wagaman. A first base only prospect from California. He is tall (6'4").

Here is Tennessean Alex Junior who was the Yankees' 19th round pick. When he was very young kid he thought that he was related to Ken Griffey Jr. (because his own name is Junior).

Here is Virginian righty Aaron McGarity. He was the Yankees' 15th rounder this year and his 2-pitch power pitcher seems to be working well in the bullpen.

Here is Californian righty Brooks Kriske. He was drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2016 draft and all signs pointed to him rising pretty quickly through the ranks but instead he had to undergo Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2017. Here in 2018 he's looking to make up for lost time.

Next is one of the best starters on the Yankees roster, Juan De Paula. He's been nothing short of stellar this year.

Here is Matt Sauer. He's also been nothing short of stellar this year.

Next up is Nolan Martinez. The Yankees haven't quite shut him down this year yet, but his outings are starting to get shorter and shorter.

Here is Yankees manager Lino Diaz. He's bounced around as a behind the scenes guy for various teams before landing with the Yankees as a coach. This year he's serving as the Yankees' manager and he's super duper nice.

Next up is Andres Chaparro. A Venezuelan catcher-turned-infielder who has a strong arm.

Here are a couple of returns from Chase Hodson. Some of you might remember Hodson as the player I sent a request to last year that was a failure, but was also an extremely generous gesture by the Staten Island Yankees. He also gave me some taco flavored sunflower seeds before the game. Thanks Chase!

Next up is relief prospect Garrett Mundell. He's one of the 2015 draftees I was looking to upgrade for my 2015 autograph project.

Here is another relief prospect in Christian Morris. He's another 2015 draftee I was looking to upgrade for my project.

Here's another reliever in Abel Duarte. He has easy low-90's velo.

And last but not least is an autograph of Brandon Lockridge. Unfortunately he was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees too late to get a card in the set, but he's super nice. He even helped me get Sauer and Martinez's autographs. I'll have to make a custom for him.

And that concludes the autograph haul. 25 autographs total! Woof. Not my personal best record, but it's always good to go home with 20+ autographs.

Now as for the games...

Game one was during the day when the weather was pretty okay. One minute clouds would be really ugly but then the clouds would disappear the next. Anyway the Yankees got outscored 10-1 by the Tri-City Valleycats. Meh, whatever. Shake it off and focus on game two.

Game two things were looking good. The bullpen wasn't too taxed and Juan De Paula was on the mound. 

Unfortunately Mother Nature intervened and the game never got out of the second inning. I'm not sure when the game will be made up because Tri-City isn't coming to Staten Island after this series and Staten Island won't be going to Tri-City anymore this season either. It may just get thrown out :P.

So I think I'll end this post on one last note, about the team set.

The 2018 Staten Island Yankees team set has 35 cards in it. Of those 35, eight are no longer with the Staten Island team. Since I got 23 of the cards signed this time, that means that I only have about four left that I can still get in town. Two of which are players, one is a trainer and the last one is a coach. Wish me luck.

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

2018 IP Auto Count: 42

Friday, July 20, 2018

My Favorite Superhero

One of the topics I've never really gone on on here is the topic of superheroes. I'm running out of content nowadays so, here we go.

The past ten years or so have been flooded with all sorts of superhero movies being pumped out by Marvel and DC. Although the trend is dying down a bit, superheroes are still pretty popular.

I'm sure we all have our favorites. I know many like the really popular names like Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Captain America, etc...

My personal favorite has always been the one and only Static.

Virgil Hawkins is a young high school student in Dakota City who gains his powers of electricity due to radioactive gas. For the record I'm a sucker for heroes with electricity themes (after all, my username is Zippy Zappy).

I originally became aware of Static thanks to the early/mid 2000's cartoon by Warner Brothers called Static Shock. I loved that show growing up and still enjoy it today. In fact the 90's/00's era DC superhero cartoons were all great. Batman The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, all gold.

One of my favorite aspects of Static was how the stories dealt with issues that were pretty real. Racism, poverty, homophobia, gun violence, gang violence and many more rather serious themes were in it. The TV show was a lot less darker than the comics, but it got key messages out in it's own way too. Although to be honest, I haven't read every Static comic ever printed.

At the end of the day I like what Static represents, inclusion. Static is a key African American superhero, but his character was created by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek Dingle based on the idea of inclusion for pretty much everybody. I'm not African American but I've been able to put myself in his shoes more than any of the other heroes (even the supposedly Asian ones), which made the stories all the more enjoyable to me. I suspect that I'm not alone.

If you're curious who's behind Static, I'd round out the rest of my top five superheroes like this...

2). Green Arrow (Justice League)
3). Captain America (Avengers)
4). Batman (Batman)
5). Raven (Teen Titans)

This list largely skews towards DC because I grew up with the D.C. Animated Universe. I have no clue what the current (if any) reiterations of those characters are like in any modern day live action shows. This is all mostly based on the cartoons of my youth and in Captain America's case, the few movies I've bothered to see this decade.

Green Arrow was my favorite superhero on Justice League Unlimited (although that show did a lot of great things for lesser known DC heroes).

The Captain America movies were the only non-Deadpool Marvel movies I've ever cared enough to see. They were really good and boosted Captain America up to favorable status in my book.

Batman The Animated Series is the greatest superhero cartoon ever created. Bar none. He gets on the top five just for that.

I guess Deadpool would knock Raven out of the top five if he were a superhero but, honestly, he's Deadpool. He's in his own category.

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bat Blog Around: Top 5

So Dan over at It's Like Having My Own Card Shop introduced a new bat blog around idea, you are to (at least try to) shorten your collection to five entities. As a pseudo-minimalist collector, this idea intrigued me. So which five would I keep?

1). Luis Torrens

2). TTM autos

3). IP autos

4). New York Rangers

5). Chunichi Dragons

If you're wondering why "Yankees" or "Yankees Prospects" aren't on here, it's because they're pretty much in the TTM autos/IP autos category. My motto for most baseball cards nowadays is that if I can't get them signed then they're not worth having.

The Rangers are a very nebulous and broad category, but I'm a cheap motherfucker with niche wants and few trade partners who actually care about hockey, so as long as it stays that way and my collection doesn't get out of hand, it works out. I don't need every Rangers card ever made, all I could ever hope for is a sampling of what the entire spectrum of Rangers cards throughout the years has to offer.

As for the Dragons, I only get to add them every few years when I make my infrequent trips to Japan or occasionally through trades. And I'm okay with that. Like the Rangers, I don't need every Dragons card ever. I don't want every Dragons card ever. But a small sampling of what the entire spectrum of Dragons cardboard is all I could ever hope for.

These five would basically leave out set collections like T206 Highlanders, Sega Card Gen and 1979 Topps. Like I said I'm cheap, and T206 commons are more expensive than they should be now so I'm not finishing my Highlanders team set anytime soon. Sega Card Gen has been dead for five years now so it's not like I have much more to add there anyway. As for 1979 Topps, my interest in it comes and goes but recently it's barely come at all. That tells me all that I need to know about my "drive" to collect that set.

I suppose this top five would also leave out various player collections like Thairo Estrada, Hiroki Kuroda and A-Rod. Which I don't really mind since I can't remember the last time I bought a baseball card of any of them. I still love them all as players, but I'm fine with just appreciating them for free.

Also, while looking at other people's top fives, I noticed that a lot of people have a "cool cards to have" category. As in, cards that don't exactly fit into any of their collections, but they're too unique or special or something to let go of. I guess I have a few things that fall into this category, but over time I've come to realize that everything I acquire that falls out of the realm of my core collection(s) is just stuff to be used as trade bait to get me the stuff I really want. For the record my Derek Jeter auto and my A-Rod autos are always available for trade to anybody willing to trade me a really low numbered Luis Torrens autograph.

And that was my top five. Keep in mind though that it's limited to my sports-related interests. If I were to expand that to non-sports, I'd have to really think long and hard about which category gets the boot.


Sidenote, quick shout out to Dan again for nine years of blogging. Maybe this topic would've been better served being a Prime Nine list instead?

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bears (Mild NSFW)

The West Virginia Black Bears are in town you know what that means.

It's time for an old fashioned Zippy Zappy vs Bob Walk The Plank (RIP) Cup. A fierce rivalry between future trade candidates to clear Rule 5 Draft roster spots on the Yankees side and future trade candidates when they reach their second year of arbitration on the Pirates side. Dating all the way back to... um, 2015 I think?

Yesterday was a Saturday which meant that the Yankees were the Pizza Rats. I still think that Killer B's would've worked much better (WU! TANG!).

As always let's start with the autographs.

Until the team sets come out I am firmly in semi-hibernation mode right now. So all I really got baseball wise was this personalization on a certified autograph of Matt Sauer. I wanted him to sign the jersey piece but he signed the little corner instead. Oh well, thanks anyway Matt!

What really made the whole trip worth it was probably this autograph I got of Melanie Iglesias. She's a Brooklyn native who went to high school in Staten Island. She's a model/actress who might be best known for being on Maxim. She's made a few TV appearances here and there and according to her Twitter feed she's started to take up singing.

She graciously took a selfie with me (I blocked out my face to protect the innocent, which in this case is your eyes). She was super nice and friendly.

She also threw the first pitch (or one of them anyway).

She stayed around for an inning or two meeting fans and also stopping by the Yankees bullpen (she hugged Drew Finley). Then she saw the rest of the game from one of the private suites.

And that was my lone autograph. Thanks Ms. Iglesias! Extra thanks for the personalization and message.

As for the game it was cool too. The starter for the Yankees was Harold Cortijo. A guy I do not have any cards of. He was the Yankees' 14th round pick last year and he pitched super well. He went 5.1 innings pitched allowing three hits and zero runs. Amazing. The best part is that he was so quick and effective that the game was in the fifth inning before an hour had passed since the game started. The game finished in a very tidy 2 hours and 17 minutes. Somewhere Rob Manfred got a boner.
Speaking of which the nicest part of Cortijo's performance is that he pitched a total of 69 pitches. Nice. Very nice.

Also nice was that the other Yankees relievers did their thing and the Staten Island Pizza Rats shut out the West Virginia Black Bears 1-0. Pirates first rounder Travis Swaggerty went hitless, he is clearly a bust and the Pirates are doomed to another two decades of mediocrity. Take that Matt!

The only other notable thing was that the special giveaway promo for the day were these special pizza cutters. They were only given to guests aged 18 and up because duh. I love getting stuff that's practical.

And that was my latest trip to Staten Island. Hopefully the team sets come out soon so that I can blog about cards again.

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

2018 IP Auto Count: 17