Saturday, February 17, 2018

Top 5 Cards: Albert Pujols

Before joining the Angels in 2012, Albert Pujols was already a pretty safe bet for the Hall of Fame. He had just under 450 home runs and managed to hit .328 in 11 seasons with the Cardinals. He established himself as one of baseball's greatest hitters before signing a massive 10-year contract that will have him locked up in a contract with the Angels until he's 41 years old.

Unfortunately, Pujols has not lived up to the hype in LA as much as he'd like to. He's been on the decline for the last few seasons, and his .241 batting average last year along with a .244 average in 2015 is by far the worst performances of his career. He's made just 1 All-Star game in 6 seasons after making it 9 times with the Cardinals.

Still, Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best players of all-time. I've accumulated 81 total cards of the 3-time NL MVP. His undeniable talent is the reason why I've been able to collect so many cards of him.

Here they are, my top 5 cards of Albert Pujols.

#5 2014 Topps Archives
After finding my 5 favorite cards of Pujols, I was surprised to learn that I chose more cards of Pujols on the Angels (3) than the Cardinals (2).  He obviously has way more cards showing him as a Cardinal, but because of cards like the one shown above, I guess I was drawn to the Pujols cards on the Angels. The photo on the card appears to be from Spring Training, but the rocky background is not too indifferent from the rocks at the Angels ballpark. The choice of pink and navy blue for the team name is an awesome color combination that really works for the card. It feels like I should've chosen a card of him on the Cardinals over the Angels, but with a card like this, I felt I had no choice.

#4 2016 Panini Donruss Test Proof Cyan
I remember feeling ecstatic when I pulled this low-numbered Albert Pujols Test Proof card from 2016 Donruss, a card I believe to be similar to Topps' printing plates. The style of the card helps me to not be quite as aware of the card being unlicensed. I don't like how to Test Proof stamp covers Pujols' stats, but the front of the card easily makes up for it. I like the Test Proof idea because it allows collectors to acquire cards that look like printing plates in a much easier way. I'm not sure if they brought them back in 2017 and will bring them back this year. All I know is this is a very well-executed card by Panini.

#3 2013 Topps Chrome 1972 Topps
Throwback jersey? Check. 1972 Topps design? Check. I don't think I need to say much else about this fantastic card. I've collected a couple of these cards, but the Pujols is by far my favorite. I'm glad that Topps Chrome did this insert set back in 2013 for my all-time favorite set, 1972 Topps. I was a bit nervous to see how well Topps would execute this set when done in the Chrome set, but I have to say that they did an excellent job with the entire insert set and the Pujols card in particular. There's not a single thing out of place, and the throwback jersey inclusion is just the icing on the cake for this eye-catching card.

#2 2010 Topps National Chicle
It's no coincidence that the top 2 cards on my list both show Pujols on the Cardinals. After all, St. Louis is where he made a name for himself and won not 1, but 2 World Series rings. 2010 Topps National Chicle was another art set, similar to Gallery and Turkey Red. This set lasted 1 year and never came back after that, which is a bit disappointing. Pujols received the #1 card in the 2010 set after winning back to back NL MVP awards in 2008 and 2009. The key details of this card are included in the background, that being the stands at the stadium and the beautifully-painted buildings.  It takes a lot for a card in this set to stand out, and this card does that. So including this card at #2 is a no-brainer. 

#1 2004 Bowman Heritage

The 1955 Bowman set is possibly the greatest baseball card set to ever exist. It even beats out 1972 on my list if I would rank all my favorite sets of all-time. When the set was recreated in 2004 Bowman Heritage, my dad collected some of the set, and one of the cards he pulled was of Albert Pujols. It's rare that a card shows Pujols playing in the infield instead of batting at the plate, and this unique camera angle combined with the choice of the image makes for an overall exceptional card of Albert Pujols, and one that was an easy choice for the #1 spot. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

A 1-Card Package For the Kimbrel Collection

After pulling Kimbrel's base card from my 2nd blaster of 2018 Series 1, I decided to take a look online and see what else was available for 2018 Kimbrel cards. Sportlots had about 5 different Kimbrel's from Series 1 listed on their site just over a week ago when I pulled the trigger on that 5 card order for the Kimbrel Collection. The first of those 5 cards arrived today. 

This is the black parallel version of the 1983 insert card. I'm glad to see that black parallels are becoming more common since they were usually used just for 1/1 cards until last year or so. I pretty much knew what to expect on this card because I had seen the base insert version on a blog a couple of weeks ago. In the picture shown, he is seen making his way from the bullpen to the mound during one of his home games at Fenway last season.

The card is also numbered 210/299 on the back, which makes me like the card even more. I paid just $2 for this card on Sportlots, which I think is an incredible deal considering that it's numbered to a relatively low amount. It also includes his full stat line dating back to his 2010 debut as well as noting 3 separate star performances from the 2017 season. 

This new addition brings my Kimbrel Collection total to 93 different cards, meaning I'm on the path to 100. I consider this a very good accomplishment considering I began super-collecting Kimbrel at the beginning of the year. And with another package expected soon, and a baseball card show on Monday, I think I'll be at 100 cards within the next few days. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Turning an Autograph Into 3 Relics

I recently completed a trade with Matt of Bob Walk The Plank in which I sent a 2017 Bowman's Best auto of Shane Baz to him. He said he'd surprise me and send a few cards for my player collections, and I was instantly excited. I never quite know what to expect, especially when it comes to baseball cards. 

The package from Matt came in the mail today and contained 3 different relic cards. The first one (Ichiro) is shown above. The next 2 have 2 things in common. They're both Red Sox players and they're both serial numbered. 

The first of the 2 Sox relics is a player who was a key part of the 2013 World Championship team, Jacoby Ellsbury. The 2011 AL MVP runner-up put together 7 above-average seasons for the Red Sox including a monstrous 2011 season. This dual relic that includes what I believe to be a St. Patricks Day patch card, reminds me of those years he spent in Boston. The serial number is a bit hard to see, but the card is numbered 23/25 and is from 2014 Panini Immaculate.

Ellsbury turned 34 last year, a sign that I've been watching baseball for a while considering I remember his first few seasons. He's been rumored in trades along with his teammate Chase Headley. I still collect Jacoby, just not as much as I used to since he left the Red Sox for New York. I still enjoy finding cards in the Red Sox dime bins at the show or acquiring awesome cards like this, because of the time Jacoby spent in Boston. He was a star here, and that is something baseball cards do a good job of documenting. 

The 3rd and final relic sent to me by Matt is not just a Boston legend, but an MLB legend and one of the greatest all-around players in baseball history. Wade Boggs was the final relic sent to me in this trade, and this card is numbered 162/199 and is from 2015 Topps Tier 1, a high-end set. Therefore, I don't have many relics from that Topps brand.

Wade Boggs is one of my favorite players to ever play the game, probably on my top 10 favorites list. His sheer dominance and pure talent on the field lead to many cards being made of him. This caused many cards to be made of him and allowed me to collect over 100 cards of the 12-time All-Star.

Thanks a bunch for the incredible 3 relic cards Matt. I hope you enjoy the Shane Baz auto. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Another Stack

Last week I claimed my second trade stack from Chris of Nachos Grande. The stack included a few cards for player collections as well as a couple of nice Expos cards. So after waiting a bit to see if anyone else could claim it, I dived right in and received a stack of 15 cards to show off today.

The Bud Day card above is from a special 2009 Topps Heritage set called American Heroes edition. This was the last card added to the stack before I decided to claim it. I know it's a non-sports card, but the 1960 Topps design along with some excellent image choices by Topps makes me like this card and set a lot.

A couple of USA Baseball Champions cards were also included in the stack. Neither Torrez or Mooneyham have played since 2014 or so, but I'm sure I can find some frankenset or misc. binder to add these 2 cards.

For those of you who don't know, Chris opened a box of 2000 Fleer Tradition in hopes of completing the set. He acquired a few doubles that he added to the trade stack. I've never seen too much of this set before, and I have to say that I really like all the bright colors and how the fake signatures don't distract from the pictures. I like all 4 of the cards a lot, but the Beltre is by far my favorite because it's from the early days of his career in LA.

Just in case I haven't mentioned this yet, I also enjoy collecting Montreal Expos cards. The colorful uniforms, talented players, and overall fun of collecting Montreal Expos cards are what has made them one of my favorite teams ever despite no longer existing. I also really like the simple yet innovative design of 1998 Upper Deck Retro. Combining 2 great things yielded with the result of having 2 1998 Upper Deck Retro cards in the trade stack. The unique sunset lighting makes these cards a lot different from any other card in the stack. I'm very pleased to add these 2 to my Montreal Expos binder.

Another late addition was this Fielding Award insert of Andrelton Simmons from this years' Topps Series 1. I was actually very happy to see that this card had been added, because of how much I enjoy collecting Topps insert sets. I've already acquired a Jose Altuve AL MVP and a Mookie Betts fielding card, so this one became my 3rd card from the insert set.

2 cards that made me interested in the trade stack in the first place were these 2014 Allen & Ginter cards of Joey Votto and Aroldis Chapman. Votto has become one of my largest current players' collections, with a total just north of 50 cards or so. Chapman is a player I've been debating about collecting for years, but I haven't seen too many of his cards. Hopefully, this one will inspire me to add him to my player collection list. 

Another card that I instantly loved as soon as I saw it was this clean and modern 2003 Fleer Box Score of another player I collect, Ichiro. Each base card in the set highlights a special game that a player had in the last couple of seasons, and for Ichiro, that occurred on April 6th, 2001. On that day, Ichiro had 6 at-bats, scored 2 runs, and had 4 hits to help lead the Mariners to a 9 to 7 victory over the Texas Rangers.

And despite not being very well-liked at the moment, there is no denying how cool this Derek Jeter poster is. In fact, I must say it was the #1 factor in me claiming the trade stack in the first place. This 1998 Fleer Sports Illustrated Then & Now poster shows a very young Derek Jeter at the time when his career was just taking off. The action-shot photo and cool font are just a few things that I like about the poster. I also like how it's relatively small. The poster is just a little bit bigger than 4 baseball cards put directly next to each other. Its small size will allow me more options for placing the poster, so long as it's nowhere near the Red Sox cards.

Thanks so much for the trade stack Chris. The Gallery cards I sent you in return should come later this week.