Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Top 5 Cards: Adam Jones

Happy Halloween everybody. 

While most people are handing out candy while getting ready for game 6 of the World Series I'm doing this post and thinking about something I'm truly scared of.

The future of the Boston Red Sox.

They just lost their pitching coach, hitting coach, 3rd base coach, and manager in a span of a few weeks. There have been JBJ trade rumors along with uncertainties with new manager Alex Cora. And to top it all off, their farm system has become depleted having only 2 minor leaguers on the MLB top 100 prospects list.

To take my mind off the Sox I've decided to do a top 5 cards post on a division rival's player, Orioles star outfielder Adam Jones. I've accumulated a large total of cards of Jones, especially for a modern player. As of now, I have 42 cards of Adam Jones. Here are my favorite 5. 

#5 2014 Topps Heritage
The recognizable pennants and colorful borders are what made collectors excited for 2014 Topps Heritage to bring back the iconic 1965 set back in 2014. Even though this card doesn't bring quite as much pop of color as some other cards, it still has redeeming qualities. The pennant looks great as usual and the sleek silver works well with the orange. The photo of Jones is okay, but he almost looks like he's upset or something based on his facial expressions. I like the set design as well as the pose, but Jones' sad face is what bumped this card down to #5.

#4 2012 Topps
Rarely do I believe that Topps base cards are some of the best cards I have of a player, but an exception was made for Adam Jones' 2012 Topps card. He appears to be high-fiving teammate Nick Markakis after what I presume to be a clutch RBI hit. The O's are also wearing what I believe to be throwback jerseys in this card which is something I always like to see. Usually, the set design along with the photo blow me away, but this time it's just the photo which is why it didn't make it higher on the list. However, this spectacular shot of Jones cannot be ignored. 

#3 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen
Here's another card from 2012 this one being a Gypsy Queen base card. The recognizable purple borders are paired up with a photo of Jones running the bases in the Orioles' black jerseys which proves to be a near-perfect color combination. There's not much else to say about Gypsy Queen that I haven't already said, however, this card is definitely above average for the set. The set is very nice and the colors pop that's all there is to it. The blurry background is what set this card back, but it's still one of my favorite cards of Adam Jones.

#2 2012 Topps Archives
Soon after the revival of the Archives brand, Topps revived one of their oldest sets in the 1954 design. This set is one of the most intricate as it features the team logo, a headshot of the player, a black and white action shot along with a fake signature. And somehow all of this comes together and works. I usually detest fake signatures, but I'm convinced that they work on this card. The 2 perspectives of the player in this set is a very good concept and something that I think that Topps should do again sometime soon. I also like the yellow background because of how much it reminds me of the days Topps took risks which already seems like a while ago.

#1 2011 Topps Allen & Ginter
I've said openly for years that I'm not a fan of Allen & Ginter due to how plain it can be. However, the 2011 set is by far my favorite set in the brand's history. It's definitely an outlier as it looks way different than any other A&G set with elements of color that's not in the background. It's almost like they decided to make the player the portrait and the bottom part the painter's signature. It looks almost like a painting and this set delivers in ways that Allen & Ginter never did before. I love almost everything about this card even down to the player's name in the top corner, which is why it barely snagged the #1 spot on the list.

Even though Adam Jones, the Orioles, and the Red Sox won't be playing game 6 of the World Series tonight I needed to take my mind off Boston Red Sox craziness. Now I have an hour to kill until the Fall Classic returns to LA.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Not Sure How I Feel About Manufactured "Relics"

Throughout the 2010's Topps has been dragging these manufactured relic cards into their Topps Series 1 & 2 as well as Update products. While some designs look okay, most can be a total letdown.

Here's the thing the concept isn't bad at all, but these are NOT relics. These are not game-used bats or jerseys, therefore, should not share the same card title type as relics. These may be manufactured, but they're not game-used so they shouldn't be called relics.

Another problem I have with these is that they're counted as a relic in Topps jumbo boxes. Like I said these aren't relics, and some person could buy a jumbo box that is promised 2 relics, and later become disappointed or confused about where and what the other relic is. These should be kept to blaster boxes only. After all, it is a nice throw in to include, so long as it's not in an expensive hobby box. 

But I do firmly believe that with a little tweaking, this product could be improved. Doing more sets like these World Series Champions with the ring reproductions as the "relic" is not a bad idea. So is commemorating awards like MVP and CY Young and even doing it for all-stars as a yearly Topps Update tradition.

And sometimes, yes sometimes I take a look at manufactured relics like the Carew one above and I begin to appreciate them a bit more. I start to see where Topps is coming from and what they're trying to accomplish with these cards.

But then I see cards like this where no effort whatsoever was put into the idea as well as the card design. When I see cards like this I not only lose faith in these manufactured cards but a little bit in Topps as well. So much so that I'm definitely looking for some Diamondbacks fan or avid Paul Goldschmidt collector to come along and make a trade for this.


Friday, October 27, 2017

My Other 2 Printing Plates

When I opened a box of 2014 Gypsy Queen last week I received my 3rd printing plate in my collection (and yes I know it's smudged a bit). This was my first non-yellow plate and even though it may be smudged, it's still a great addition to my collection and of a player who for a while was an MLB star.

My other 2 plates were from packs that I opened last year. One is actually from 2016 while the other is from a 2007 set.

Although he wasn't doing very well when I got this card in summer 2016, Heyward has bounced back and had a solid 2017 year. This card, like the Fielder, came from a Gypsy Queen hobby box and this card actually came in the first pack. This plate is the mini Heyward base card, #11 from 2016 Gypsy Queen. I was pleased to get my first plate ever, and it was fun because I had very little prior knowledge about what a printing plate was. But I knew when I pulled it that it was a Cub, and a 1/1, so I was happy. 

The next card has a bit more of an interesting story. I bought a box of 2007 Fleer (made by Upper Deck) at the baseball card show. It was $15 and the cover person of the product was Ken Griffey Jr. I was opening packs, not expecting any hits but still enjoying the base set and the unique inserts when all of a sudden I saw the same color that had resonated with me since I saw it on the Heyward plate. I flipped through the other cards and then I saw it.

It's him, one of the best clutch hitters and sluggers of all-time. Ken Griffey Jr. 

I was speechless. My 2nd plate had come in a pack about a month after my first, and this was a legend, a Hall of Famer. One of the best hitters to ever play the game. I immediately put it in a safe place right next to the Heyward, that way my two plates could be together. 

Upon further examination, I found that this plate is from an insert set called Autographics. I haven't seen this set anywhere else, but I don't need to. Knowing I have a Ken Griffey Jr plate is all I need. 

As for the backs, since the 2 Gypsy Queens are obviously made by Topps the backs look pretty similar, just with different colors.

While the Griffey plate is made by Upper Deck, so it looks a bit different.

Well, there you go, all 3 of my printing plates. I find these to be great ways to pick up your first 1/1 card or just to get another 1/1. You can find some going for pretty cheap on COMC, so if you want you own I highly recommend checking that website out. Hopefully someday soon I'll have a 4th plate to show off. 

That is if my luck continues.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Set That Celebrated A Legacy

In 2008, Upper Deck released a 6742 card set celebrating each game ever played at the historic Yankee Stadium that was knocked down the year before.

This was easily the most ambitious set ever made by any company ever, which continued to prove the risks that some card manufacturers, like Upper Deck, take that Topps would never do. The cards were randomly inserted into many Upper Deck products throughout the year and I've acquired about 30 cards from the massive set. 

Like I said each card is a game played at Yankee Stadium, win or lose. Each card also features a star player for the Yankees from that moment in time. This star-studded list includes Yankees greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Andy Petitte, Mariano Rivera, and more. The front features a picture of the player along with a gold snapshot of the ballpark along with the game number as well as the date and final score.

Yet somehow this ambitious set isn't limited to just the cards from each game played at the ballpark. There are more cards included that feature the greatest Yankees of all-time. These cards are white-bordered rather than gold and look just as sick as the other cards.

While these aren't as interesting as the other cards, there's no denying that these are well-done cards by a company that truly wanted to make a unique product for the fans. A product so someone like me, a devout Red Sox fan could appreciate it and even attempt to collect a few select cards from the set.

But even though I know a fair amount about the set, I know far from everything. If anyone knows what these blue-bordered cards are or knows any information I missed or got wrong, please let me know. There's no doubt in my mind that this set is one of my favorite sets ever made, and I really feel like it never got the attention or recognition it deserved. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Top 5 Cards: Duke Snider

Yesterday I did a top 5 cards list of my favorite Astro of all-time Craig Biggio to honor their 2017 AL pennant-winning season. Today I have decided to do the same to commemorate the Dodgers NL pennant season with a top 5 cards of my favorite Dodger ever, Duke Snider.

Snider was a driving force behind the Dodgers' 1955 and 1959 World Series winning teams. The 8-time all-star 16 of his 18 years for the Dodgers, but surprisingly took 11 ballots to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Snider is a player I've been collecting since I started collecting cards, and over that time I have built my player collection of him up to 44 cards. As usual, here are my top 5.

#5 2015 Topps Archives
2015 Topps Archives consisted of 3 of the best sets ever made by Topps, 1957, 1976, and 1983. The Snider card was included with the other 1976 cards and as soon as I saw it in the dime bins it stuck out to me, in a good way, and I immediately decided to buy it. The classic blue and red combination were taken to the next level with bolder, better colors. The image is one we've seen before, but thanks to the 1976 set it helps to hide the reused picture, just a little bit. The 1976 Topps set is one of my favorites, in fact, I put it at #6 on my list of top 10 favorite Topps sets. I suppose that is what helped propel this card to the top 5. 

#4 1976 SSPC
After retiring from playing baseball, Snider became not only the hitting instructor but play-by-play announcer for the Montreal Expos beginning in 1973. He found that he excelled as an announcer and stayed at that position until 1986. This also happens to be one of the few cards ever made that shows Snider on the Expos, which is the main reason why it made the list. Snider looks so different in a Montreal jersey, but the card works. well. The dark background allows Snider himself to be the focal point of the card, which works considering people aren't really used to seeing him in an Expos jersey. That's why this crazy card made the cut.

#3 2005 Donruss Diamond Kings HOF Heroes
I have acquired many of these 2005 HOF Heroes cards, but not many of them stand out as much as this one of Duke. The different shades of brown give this card a vintage feel, similar to the era that Snider played in while the picture of him also has a brown background. It's very classy, almost like a framed picture. The only real pop of color is in the micro Dodgers logo below the picture of Snider which makes this card the perfect example of making a card work without many colors. This would be the last year Donruss had MLB licensing, but at least with a set like this, they were able to go out with a bang and produce a Snider card worthy of my list.

#2 2004 Donruss Team Heroes 
Here we have another Donruss card of Snider making the list, this one is from 2004 Team Heroes. This card builds on the blue and red theme by including a picture of Snider I haven't seen in any other set. This Team Heroes set highlighted stars, both current and past from their respected teams and the Snider card was literally a home run. Not only is a new picture nice and refreshing to see, but the rest of the card sticks to the blue and red theme and delivers a nice overall set. The Team Heroes logo along with the Dodgers logo on top are placed well along with the colors, while the bottom of the card features the player name and position. It's my favorite card of Snider from the modern era, but the #1 spot had to be an original card.

#1 1961 Topps
My oldest card of Duke also happens to be my favorite as this simple, yet stunning vintage card of Snider from 1961 takes the top spot on the list. The picture looks great especially for the time it was taken in and includes a shot of Duke swinging the bat, which hasn't been too common of a theme in Snider cards on the list. While the 1961 set is rather boring, this card is far from it. I've always been a stickler for vintage, which is why I attempt to include one on each top 5 cards list I can. It's just that the other cards couldn't beat an old, vintage card of Snider. The card is just way too amazing for that to happen.

Those are my top 5 cards of Duke Snider. The World Series begins tonight as the Astros face the Dodgers in LA. Who do you think will win when Keuchel faces Kershaw? Let me know in the comment section below who you think will come out on top in Game 1.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Top 5 Cards: Craig Biggio

In honor of the Astros making the World Series for the first time since 2005, I've decided to do a top 5 cards list of my favorite Astro of all-time, Craig Biggio. And don't worry Dodgers fans, I'll be doing a top 5 cards post for my favorite Dodger tomorrow.

Biggio played every year of his 20-year career for the Houston Astros. He, along with teammate Jeff Bagwell dominated in Houston and lead them to their 2005 pennant. I'm sure Astros fans are hoping that this World Series goes better than when they were swept by the White Sox back in 2005.

My Craig Biggio card collection is currently at 32 cards. I've chosen my favorite 5.

#5 2002 Donruss
Sometimes all it takes is a simple set that's not overly complicated to create a top tier card, and that's what happened with Biggio's 2002 Donruss card. The borders are basic grey lines with little specks of colors corresponding to the team colors. The set also includes a banner with the player's name and the team logo below it. The card is mostly centered around the picture and this one features Biggio in the dark red uniforms that the Astros wore before joining the AL West. It doesn't try to do too much, considering that it's basic Donruss but it does a nice job. It's a basic card that combined with a few small details make a card worthy of the #5 spot. 

#4 2016 Topps Archives
Biggio's 2016 Archives card was up against some steep competition which is why it didn't make the top 3 on the list. Nevertheless, this card is one of the best from 2016 Archives and it's easy to see why. The card features one of the best Biggio photos I've ever seen. The shot was taken from early playing days as a catcher, and Archives couldn't have chosen a better set to show Biggio at that position. The photo is one I haven't seen before which I appreciate. But it's also the best photo on any card of Biggio I have. If it was a better all-around card it would've made it higher up on the list, however, it's by no means a letdown. It just narrowly got beat out. 

#3 2005 Fleer Authentix
The Fleer Authentix set was all about creating baseball cards that, at the same time looked just like tickets to a baseball game. While they didn't do a great job of it in the 2005 set, they did do a phenomenal job of creating a stand-out card. The ticket doesn't take up the whole card, but instead, the action shot of Craig and the vintage-style borders and background help the overall uniqueness of the set and specifically the Biggio card. I do appreciate the ticket and I think they did a decent job with it, it's just not my favorite part of the card. However, it's a set like this that cause me to miss Fleer. I really wish they'd make a comeback like they once did, but with Topps' exclusive licensing rights running through 2020 it seems unlikely. 

#2 2015 Panini Contenders Old School Colors
While Panini doesn't have MLB licensing, they do take the extra step to make their sets work and one of those is their Old School Colors insert set from 2015 Contenders. It shows some of the top players in the game, both retired and current on their college team which for Biggio happened to be Seton Hall University. The concept is very cool, and the overall execution of the idea is well-done. I especially enjoy how they included the pictures in black and white. Almost any set with some black and white cards is bound to be good, but the Seton Hall blue looks fabulous with the black and white photo, causing this card to be one of my favorites from the set that I've ever seen. 

#1 2001 Donruss
Donruss' 20th-anniversary base set brought with it a sleek silver stamp on the base set and a bunch of stars in the background. These things shouldn't work, especially on a baseball card, but they do and I have to applaud Donruss for taking this risk. The borders match the Astros red color in their logo while the stars throughout the card have a gold color, which matches the Astors gold. It's almost like the set was made for Craig Biggio and when you get that type of feeling with a card, it's bound to be good and this set delivers. The red is definitely the star of the card as it matches up well with the Astros and their players, and the photo chosen of Biggio works very well. All of these factors aren't easy to find in one card, and this card has all of these features. That's why it got the #1 spot on my list.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Birthday Cards Part 2

As I stated in a post a few days ago, it was my birthday on Wednesday. I always enjoyed buying cards on my birthday, because it truly is the perfect gift for me. It's my main interest, cards are something I can always enjoy.

That's why I was so excited when my dad told me we were going to our local card shop on my birthday to pick out a box of cards. I had so many ideas on what to get, but no clue what was available.

After talking to the owner for a few minutes I began to narrow my focus to Gypsy Queen, and the Gypsy Queen set I had the least of, 2014. With a promise of 2 relics and 2 autographs it was a no-brainer and I chose that box. 

I'm not going to go pack by pack but rather show you the big hits, and there were a lot of them.

The first hits were the blue framed cards. These are all numbered /499 and were a Gypsy Queen staple for years. I was able to pull 2 of these, one of Adam Jones, a player I collect.

And one of Harmon Killebrew, another player I collect. Yes, I know the Killebrew is a bit mis-cut, but I don't really mind. I'm too intrigued by the blue borders and how well they work with the card. It leads me to be baffled as to why Topps didn't bring these back in this year's Gypsy Queen set. I personally love these especially since I got 2 of players I collect.

The next hits were cards that have also been in Gypsy Queen until this year and that is the minis.
Gypsy Queen took a page out of Allen & Ginter's book for their first 6 years and included 1 mini card per pack.

I pulled 3 of these in the hobby box and each one is numbered /199. This is proof that yet again Topps can make black borders work, therefore they need to bring those borders into a base set very soon.
The backs also embrace the all-black theme and swaps the text and background color to make one of the coolest card backs I've seen in a while. Getting Jake Marisnick is okay, just because the orange jersey goes well with the border.

But getting a player I collect like Starlin Castro, and a Jed Lowrie card with one of the most colorful jerseys in baseball history is even better. To me, the black borders work well with everything. From an exciting picture to a not so exciting picture. They add to the card, without taking away from it which I appreciate.

The final numbered mini was the sepia, a color that Gypsy Queen uses year after year.
This Chris Archer sepia mini is numbered 38/50 and was by far the best mini of the box. The sepia color is perfect for this set, and the image they chose of Archer also works really well. Archer reminds me a lot of Nolan Ryan in terms of his ERA and strikeout totals. Through 6 seasons Archer has an ERA of 3.63 which isn't that good, but his 1044 strikeouts more than make up for that. He has the potential to be great, if he can improve his ERA and get some run support.

Now I'm going to move on to the relics and autographs.

The first relic is a pretty standard one in Domonic Brown. He, like Archer, played for 6 years, but has not played in the MLB since 2015. He hit .246 in these 6 seasons for the Phillies, but has had just one good season. In 2013 he was named an All-Star and ended up hitting .272 with 27 homers and 83 RBI. He's currently a free agent and he's still just 30 years old. He could bring the experience to a young team that needs it.

I'll get to the other relic later, here are the autographs.

These autographs are also pretty good. Leonys Martin played for the Cubs this season and helped lead them back to the NLCS. He previously played for the Rangers and Mariners and originally played in Cuba. Jake Odorizzi is also a great autograph to have of an up and coming player. Odorizzi is just 27, but already has over 600 strikeouts and a reasonable 3.85 ERA for Tampa Bay. Since the Rays are known for creating great pitchers, don't be surprised to see Odorizzi become a 20 game winner in upcoming years.

(Apologizes for the photo quality this card is too thick to scan)

Coming out of one of the final packs was this beautiful black framed Eric Hosmer relic card. The mini features a black border, as does the frame of the card itself while the relic is a dark blue, a perfect combination.

And if that wasn't enough, the card also has a black card back and is numbered 7/10. This is definitely one of the best relics in my collection. At this point I thought the box couldn't get any better.

Well, I was wrong.

Yes it is smudged due to usage of the plate itself, but this Debut All-Stars Prince Fielder magenta printing plate was the crown jewel of this box. This is the 3rd printing plate in my collect, and the first non-yellow one so I will gladly keep this card in my collection. I am quite annoyed that it's smudged on the right side, but I got so many memorable cards in this box that there's no way I'm going to let this discourage me. This was by far the greatest hobby box I've ever opened. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

I Already Miss the 2016 World Series

With an embarrassing 11-1 loss to the Dodgers last night the Chicago Cubs have been eliminated from the playoffs. This means the World Series matchup will be Dodgers vs either Yankees or Astros.

I shouldn't really be rooting for any team considering that the Dodgers beat the Cubs, the Astros beat the Red Sox, and I could never root for the Yankees. However, the Dodgers have a very talented team and since they aren't an American League team they don't face the Sox often. Therefore I suppose I'll be hoping the Dodgers win the Fall Classic. 

Still, last years World Series was so fascinating. It was the most viewed World Series in a while and with moments like David Ross's home run it's easy to see why. Both the Cubs and Indians had young talented players and the teams truly felt evenly matched. Each game was a toss-up to see who would win, which only added to the excitement. 

Young stars like Addison Russel and Kris Bryant took on players like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. There were elite pitchers like Chapman and Miller. Each game was a nail-biter to the very end. I just don't get the vibe that 2 teams as exciting as the Cubs and Indians will take the field in the World Series.

But, no matter who makes it for the AL the Fall Classic will be interesting to watch. Yankees vs Dodgers would be a classic series that could have the ratings and attendance of MLB games up again. These teams have faced off time after time in the World Series, and with the Dodgers in an almost 30 year championship drought, they'd be hungry for a ring. On the other hand you have the Astros. A young squad with a feared hitter in almost every lineup spot. This team reminds me of the Cubs in the way that they are looking to rise out of the ashes of their rebuilding days.

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite excited for the 4-7 games that will be taking place soon. The World Series is the most exciting time of the season. This is when the biggest stars have to do better than ever. Everything is on the line during these games, and through all of this one team will come out on top. Comment below which team you'd like to see win it all. Again, I'd like to see the Dodgers win.

Finally, Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, good luck. You'll need it