Monday, July 30, 2018

A Big League Blaster For the Road Part 2

Greetings. I am currently writing to all of you from a hotel in upstate New York. A quick pit-stop on my journey to The National will take place here as my dad has some people to meet here before we head on our way to the hotel in Cleveland tomorrow. In anticipation of what we may bring back and unwillingness to pay extra to check our bags at the airport, we decided to split up the trip and drive from Massachusetts to Ohio. If all goes well, I'll be in Cleveland tomorrow at this time.

As for today's post, I have the final 2 packs from the 2018 Topps Big League blaster box plus the bonus 4-card blue parallel pack and the 1 green card that's to be cut off the box. I'll save that card and my lackluster cutting skills for last.

Now, onto the final 2 10-card packs from the blaster, starting with the 4th pack of the box.

Pack #4

#66 Jose Urena
Taken from a similar angle as the Nick Markakis card I pulled yesterday, this Jose Urena card quickly stood out as one of my favorites of the bunch. I can't even believe I'm saying this, but the Marlins' team colors (light blue and orange) actually look pretty nice with the light grey base borders. If nothing else, this set makes me incredibly nostalgic for borders on baseball cards.

#93 Andrew Cashner

#278 Matt Carpenter

#229 Ricky Nolasco

#174 Michael Fulmer

#246 Alcides Escobar
Even though this pack has been pretty mediocre so far, I appreciate the photo choices for many of the base cards, especially Alcides Escobar's card shown here. Judging by his reaction and the visibly excited Royals fans in the background, I assume Escobar either hit a home run or a walk-off, or maybe even both. 

#152 Brandon Belt

#273 Starling Marte
Seeing old-school uniforms making it onto today's baseball card products is something that will never get old. From what I know, the Pittsburgh Pirates wear these throwback jerseys on Sunday home games which are likely when this photo of Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was taken. 

#119 Julio Teheran

#224 Jordan Zimmerman gold parallel
Wow. 10 cards and not a single player that I collect. Now that's what I call an underwhelming pack of baseball cards.

Pack #5

#197 Kyle Schwarber
One card into the 5th and final pack of the box and it's already an improvement over the 4th pack of cards. Kyle Schwarber is having a much-improved 2018 season compared to last year and is also a player I collect. To make things better, the card is also pretty great as well as it includes the Wrigley Field ivy in the background.

#38 Byron Buxton

#213 Victor Robles
With Bryce Harper likely on his way out of Washington, maybe even as soon as tomorrow's 4:00 PM non-waiver trade deadline, the Nationals should be investing all they can into their new young players like Juan Soto and Victor Robles. He has yet to play this season and seems like a September call-up waiting to happen. There's been a fair amount of hype around him, so I'm excited to see this guy play pretty soon.

#294 Matt Moore

#70 Francisco Lindor

#173 Tucker Barnhart

#285 Jorge Alfaro

#43 Jordy Mercer

#367 Tyler O'Neil

#142 Hunter Pence gold parallel
I may have pulled a card of Kyle Schwarber and a rookie card of Victor Robles as well, but besides those 2 cards, the 5th pack wasn't all that much better than the 4th. At least the borders in the set make these parallels look even better.

4-card exclusive blue parallel pack
Even though I really do like the shade of blue chosen for these exclusive blue parallel cards, I'm not too crazy about who I got. I already pulled base cards of Escobar and Pence along with a Pence gold parallel as well. The Home Run Apple Ballpark Landmark is not what I had in mind for this pack, so that card is officially up for trade. Finally, Wil Myers is a Padre. I do not follow the Padres. All of the blue parallel cards shown above are up for trade except for the Escobar. I like that card too much to trade it away.

Finally, we have the cut-out green parallel card of Mike Trout who I did not know was included on this box until I began to open the packs at home. Even now knowing the other options including Shohei Ohtani, I would still take Trout over the rest of the guys. Now, let's take a look at my fail at cutting the card off the box.

I know, I messed up pretty bad in the bottom left and top right corners. I was trying to make the card too perfect, especially in the bottom left, and ended up cutting off more than I would like. I wish I had experience cutting Hostess cards back in the 70's. That would've prepared me a bit more for this which is actually far more difficult than it seems.

Even though I didn't pull the best cards, I had a lot of fun with this break. It's nice to see an affordable set with borders and parallels that's quite a collectible set as well. I said this exact same thing about Topps Bunt back in 2016, so I hope 2018 Topps Big League is able to stick around for longer than 2 years.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Big League Blaster For the Road Part 1

One day before I'm set to officially leave for Cleveland (my Dad and I decided to leave Monday afternoon instead of early Tuesday morning), I took a quick trip to Target for various last-minute travel items that I need before I am set to leave tomorrow around 1:00 PM and you know what going to Target means; checking the card aisle to see what products (or lack thereof) are available.

I was originally just going to pick up 2 packs of 2018 Topps Allen & Ginter. One pack would be for today and one for when we get on the road tomorrow. However, I eventually discovered that the retail A&G packs were $3 which was expected, but they also only had 6 cards each. I was not going to pay 50 cents a card for retail A&G, so my eyes shifted to the rest of the card aisle. Eventually, a $10 blaster box of 2018 Topps Big League caught my eye.

Somehow, I was under budget regarding the rest of my stuff at Target. I also needed a blog post idea for today and tomorrow which I was relying on getting at Target anyhow. Finally, the cost of this blaster is merely a buck more than 3 packs of 2018 Allen & Ginter would've cost me. So, I decided that a blaster for the road would be a good idea, especially since I've been dying to open some of Big League ever since I started seeing bloggers post about it.

Today, I'll go over the first 3 packs of the box. Tomorrow, I'll go over the final 2 plus the 4 exclusive blue parallel cards and the 1 green parallel cut-out on the back of this box. There are 10 cards per pack, including 1 guaranteed gold parallel card.

Pack #1

#247 Parker Bridwell
Parker Bridwell may not be the most exciting first card to pull, but the card is a prime example of the images choices and base set design of Topps Big League. The product is designed to appeal to kids, and it does a pretty good job at that with the 400-card checklist. This set seems like Topps Bunt's replacement, but I also have heard whispers that it could also replace Opening Day which I'm more than okay with. 

#104 Jose Altuve
The card backs of 2018 Topps Big League is one of the strong points of the set. While it still doesn't include full stats for every player, the "Did You Know" fun facts and the vintage-looking color scheme is very appealing to a collector like me. 

#277 Kyle Seager

#87 Avisail Garcia

#124 Brandon Nimmo

#326 2017 AL Saves Leaders
As much as I originally liked the individual league leaders cards from Topps Flagship, I do miss having the top 3 leaders on one card which is what is done on the Stat Kings cards. Even better, the first one I pulled includes Craig Kimbrel who finished 3rd in the AL in saves in 2017. Therefore, this card will go straight to the Kimbrel Collection. 

#111 Paul Goldschmidt

#363 Bernie's Dugout

#MI-8 Ministers of Mash Giancarlo Stanton
Although I enjoy the concept of the Ministers of Mash set that includes the players' career home run total on the back, I agree with all the bloggers that have stated how the inserts seem like a bit of an after-thought. Moreover, I mentioned yesterday how I do not want any cards of Stanton on the Yankees in my PC of him so this card will be added to the list of cards available for trade if anyone wants it.

#181 Travis Shaw Gold Parallel
The 1-per-pack gold parallels are a concept similar to the 1-per-pack blue parallels from 2017 Topps Bunt. Although they appear more yellow when scanned, I can confirm they do appear more gold in-person. 

Pack #2

#133 Nick Markakis
Out of all the players in the 2018 All-Star Game (Red Sox excluded), I was most happy that Nick Markakis made it. Unbelievably, the 34-year old is having possibly his best year yet, leading the league in hits and doubles while also maintaining a .316 average. Additionally, his 2018 Topps Big League card is probably my favorite base card so far.

#128 Danny Duffy

#372 Scott Kingery

#349 Mariano Rivera
From what I've heard regarding Topps Big League, there are about 50 or so retired players included in the set. Including a wide variety of retired players from different decades is what I'm hoping to see out of Big League. After all, the set is designed to appeal to kids, and teaching kids about all different legends from all different decades is the best thing to do in a set like this.

#265 Stephen Piscotty

#144 Nelson Cruz

#304 2017 AL Runs Scored Leaders
I can't remember the last time I saw the runs scored stat get its own league leaders card. It's quite an underrated stat nowadays, and I think it's really an interesting and good decision for Topps to include this stat in the Big League set. I was also surprised but not shocked to learn that Aaron Judge led the AL in runs with 128. 

#1 Aaron Judge
This is my 2nd Judge card pulled in a row, and both of them will be going to the Aaron Judge PC instead of Altuve or Springer's PC for the card above. My rule for league leader cards is that the highest-ranked player on the card that I also collect will get the card in their PC. So, even though I collect Judge, Altuve, and Springer, Judge had the most runs scored so he will get the card.

#38 Byron Buxton Players Weekend Image Variation
Despite looking like an insert, the Players Weekend cards are actually variations of the base cards. They are based off the Players Weekend jerseys and nicknames from 2017 which will return for this year as well. The guy I pulled was Byron Buxton, and his nickname last year was "Buck."

#126 Roberto Osuna Gold Parallel

Pack #3

#57 Carlos Martinez

#259 Tim Beckham

#299 Zack Greinke

#12 Whit Merrifield

#342 Pedro Martinez
Although the first 4 cards of the pack were rather boring, pulling a card of Red Sox Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez more than makes up for it. Like Topps Bunt, Big League also has very good attention to detail regarding team logos. They make sure to use the correct logo from the time period that the player played for their respective team.

#282 Noah Syndergaard

#396 Jurickson Profar

#315 2017 NL Batting Average Leaders
I think the Stat Kings cards remain my favorite part of the 2018 Topps Big League set. In an era where it seems like home runs are the only stat that matter, it's nice to see other stat categories with all the leaders being well-represented. They also help me brush up on my 2017 baseball knowledge as I did not know Charlie Blackmon was the 2017 NL Batting Average leader.

#40 Yoan Moncada

#178 Albert Pujols Gold Parallel
I certainly cannot complain about the final card of pack #3. I pulled a gold parallel of Albert Pujols, a player I collect and one of just 4 players to hit 600 homers and have 3,000 career hits along with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Alex Rodriguez. 

That's all for the first 3 packs, but I'll make sure to post the highlights of the rest of the box tomorrow along with my final thoughts on the 2018 Topps Big League product. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Downsizing Part 2

After sending a few cards from my last Downsizing post away via trade, I waited a bit before finding another group of cards to offer up to readers and fellow bloggers if they'd like. Like the last post, I made sure I didn't go crazy and choose a ton of cards to post all at once. Instead, I found 8 cards that I'm looking to send out in the next couple days before I leave for Cleveland next week. 

Especially since I'm going to be bringing home an excessive number of cards when I get back from The National, it's more important than ever for me to sell or trade as many cards away as I can. I already have my Sportlots inventory as a way to clear out some cards. Now I also have the occasional downsizing post which should be able to help me a bit as well. 

While I'm on the topic of The National, I'd like to state that I will still be posting most days while I'm away. The main travel days (Tuesday and Sunday) will be post-free, but you can expect posts on all the other days along with recap posts galore beginning Monday, August 6th and will continue through most of the week. If you guys would like, I can either go in-depth or be a bit briefer. I haven't exactly decided what I'll do, so I'd appreciate some input from the viewers.

In addition to the 2013 Topps Heritage Minor League card above of Javier Baez who is having a marvelous year so far, I have 7 other cards that are all up for grabs on a first-come-first-serve basis. Now, I'll be showing the rest starting with a 1967 card of Blue Moon Odom.

Even though I do, in fact, have a place for vintage Athletics team sets, I happened to already have this card when I bought it at the show a couple months ago. So, this 1967 Topps card of John "Blue Moon" Odom is up for grabs for any A's fans, 1967 Topps collectors, or anybody else this card might appeal to.

The reason for this 1968 Topps George Scott card being here and available for trade is the same reason as to why the Blue Moon Odom card is here. I recall buying this the same day as the Odom card and getting home only to realize I already had it. I sure hope I'm a bit more accurate while buying cards at future shows then I was when I purchased these 2 cards for 50 cents each. 

I'll admit, Whitey Herzog isn't the greatest name you could find in the 2017 Topps Archives set. With that being said, the gold Winner variations in the 1992 portion of the set were a pretty tough pull and typically go for a decent amount of money online. If there are any Royals fans out there that are interested in this card, I'd be more than happy to send it your way. 

Although I really do like Aroldis Chapman and recognize how big he was for the 2016 World Champion Cubs team, I don't have enough cards of him, to my knowledge, to form a player collection. Therefore, his 2011 Topps rookie card from his days with the Cincinnati Reds is officially up for grabs. For now, anyway. 

My 2018 Topps Stadium Club purchases yielded a couple inserts that are definitely pretty cool but aren't of players that I necessarily collect, or actively pursue. Khris Davis has been swinging one of the hottest bats in baseball since coming back from the All-Star break. His 6 home runs in a 6 game span show why he made it to the Power Zone insert set in 2018 Stadium Club.

I have personally made it my mission to not add a single card of Giancarlo Stanton on the Yankees to my player collection of him. My overall goal is to have it remain solely Marlins cards. The cards I've pulled so far have been listed on Sportlots. The Special Forces insert of Stanton from 2018 Topps Stadium Club will likely join them if no one decides to ask for it here.

Finally, I have a 1969 Topps Deckle Edge card of Rusty Staub that shows him on Houston. In reality, 1969 was Staub's first of 4 seasons spent with the Montreal Expos expansion team that he became a fan-favorite on. After leaving Montreal, Staub went on to play the majority of the rest of his career for the Mets and Tigers.

Once again, if there were any cards here that appealed to you at all, leave a comment below. I'll try to sort things out and send out the package over the next couple days before I leave Tuesday morning.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Frankenset Page 16

A couple of games ago, the Red Sox had taken a commanding lead of 5-0 or so over the Baltimore Orioles when the game was postponed due to weather. They had only gotten through roughly 2 innings of play. Despite that, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Andrew Benintendi had all already hit home runs in the short time frame before the game was postponed. 

I'm not sure of all the rules regarding these type of scenarios, but I wish they were able to count those stats and pick up the game where it was left off instead of eliminating all that each team had done and start over. Granted, there is the risk that those players could be injured in the near future which could be why they don't do it, but it's still not fair to those who had contributed offensively in that game and don't get credit for those stats.

Moving on to the trade deadline. This week, we've seen tons of pitchers such as J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Zach Britton, Nathan Eovaldi, and Jeurys Familia be traded to new teams who are in contention for the Fall Classic. Even with Machado being traded to Los Angeles, there's still a lot of speculation surrounding Tuesday's trade deadline. In particular, I'm very curious as to if the Nationals will end up trading Bryce Harper. They don't look ready to contend this year or any more, and he could deliver a huge haul of prospects back to Washington.

Now, moving on to the 16th page of my frankenset, featuring cards 136-144.

#136 2006 Topps Opening Day Justin Huber
The foil font choice for the 2006 Topps set remains a very bad decision just like the foil used in the 2015 Bowman product. However, the black (stone?) background and the blue sleeves on Huber's jersey make for a nice card, especially for an Opening Day/Flagship set. 

#137 2016 Topps Gypsy Queen Yasiel Puig
I tend to like cards that show the players' number on it, especially with jerseys that have the number on the front. Puig's jersey with #66 on it looks pretty great here, especially paired with the dirt-stained jersey and the grey borders of the 2016 Topps Gypsy Queen set. 

#138 1987 Fleer Ruben Sierra
So far, a major theme of this frankenset has been the borders/design of the set a bit more so than the actual images themselves. For this card, it's a little bit of both since I like the light blue borders of the 1987 Fleer set and the image of Rangers outfielder Ruben Sierra as well.

#139 2015 Topps Opening Day Marcell Ozuna
Undoubtedly one of the most, if not the most colorful card in the frankenset thus far, Marcell Ozuna's 2015 Topps Opening Day card includes a colorful blueish-green border along with the incredibly bold and bright orange jersey that Ozuna is wearing. This card is not only from before Ozuna's breakout and sensational 2017 season, but I also put it in before I started collecting Ozuna which is why it's included in the frankenset. 

#140 1993 Action Packed All-Star Gallery Billy Martin
I can't really tell which I like more; cards from Billy Martin's playing career or cards from Martin's managerial career. Although there are multiple iconic cards from when he was a manager, this card of his from when he played for the New York Yankees is something pretty special and is also part of the very underrated 1993 Action Packed set.

#141 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Colin Rea
If I had a mini card of Rea's 2016 Allen & Ginter card, it would likely go into the frankenset. I don't really know anything about Colin Rea, but I do like his 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter rookie card due to the Padres jersey, the pose he's taking, and the light green color in the background. 

#142 2002 Topps Gallery Wes Helms
Like 1993 Action Packed, the early 2000's Topps Gallery sets are some of the most underrated products ever produced. Granted, 2002 Gallery is far from my favorite Topps Gallery set or set in general, the art has always been very well done and the set itself is always very minimal so the art is able to stand out in a positive manner. 

#143 1967 Topps Sox Sockers
The 1967 Topps combo cards remain some of the best combo cards ever made in Topps history. Whether it be Fence Busters (Mays and McCovey), Cards Clubbers (Brock and Flood), Pitt Power (Stargell and Clendenon), or the Sox Sockers card of Pete Ward and Don Buford shown above, the '67 set certainly stands out in terms of all the standout combo cards, probably more so than any other set ever made.

#144 2003 Topps 205
These rookie cards from the 2003 Topps 205 set are, to my knowledge, a bit rarer than the average base card from the set and feature rookie cards of players such as Hanley Ramirez. For a set like this, the player really doesn't matter since the design is so intricate, just like the entire 2003 Topps 205 set.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The All-1970's Team

Yesterday's top 5 cards post on Willie Stargell got me thinking a lot about 70's baseball. In particular, I began to go over the most talented players from likely the greatest decade in baseball history with the 60's being a relatively close 2nd. 

For an all-1970's team, I knew names like Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew needed to be included. However, I found more difficulty finding players for the shortstop and 3rd outfielder positions than I originally thought I would. For some reason, the 70's had an abundance of 1st and 2nd baseman while lacking a bit at shortstop, though I am happy with all my picks.

Led by starting pitcher Tom Seaver who took home the Cy Young award twice during the 70's, I've chosen a player for each and every position (DH excluded) for my all-1970's dream team. After briefly going over the starting pitcher, I'll move onto the catcher position.

It's pretty easy to choose a number of players from the 1970's Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds team, so I was forced to narrow it down to a few players. Tom Seaver's best years in the 70's were spent with the Mets, but Johnny Bench spent every year of his 17-year career with the Reds. Johnny Bench took home the NL MVP award twice in the 70's and also made the All-Star team every year of the decade. No other catcher can really compete with Bench, let alone a 70's catcher. 

Carew pretty much split his time between the Twins and Angels throughout his career, and he also split his time between playing 2nd and 1st base. Since there was an undeniable option for 2nd, I placed the 1977 AL MVP at 1st. Carew, like Johnny Bench, made the All-Star team every year in the 70's and led all of baseball in batting average during 6 of those 10 seasons. 

A back-to-back NL MVP in both 1975 and 1976, Joe Morgan spent the better part of the 1970's decade being one of the most well-rounded players in baseball. He only missed the All-Star game once (1971), but he more than made up for it by winning 5 Gold Gloves that decade. Morgan also topped 40 single-season steals 8 times that decade, including 67 of them in '73 and '75 respectively. 

There wasn't really a sure-thing option for the shortstop position, so I had to think about this one for a bit. After reviewing the limited options that I had, I decided that Oakland A's shortstop Bert Campaneris was the best choice. He made the All-Star game 5 times in the 70's which is quite impressive for a player who isn't as well known as the others on this list. Additionally, he stole a total of 336 bases in the 70's which helped him on route to being 14th all-time (currently) in stolen bases.

Although Mike Schmidt didn't play full seasons throughout the entire decade and didn't start winning NL MVP's until the 80's, he more than meets the qualifications for the 3rd base position on the all-70's team. Although he made it to just 4 All-Star teams, Schmidt had 90+ RBI in all but 1 full season in the 70's and also took home the Gold Glove 4 times as well. 

Hank Aaron may not have played the whole decade, Willie Stargell may have struggled during some seasons, and Reggie Jackson did strike out quite a lot, but I truly stand behind these 3 players being the greatest 3 outfielders that the 1970's had to offer. Combining for 18 All-Star appearances in the entire decade, these 3 players and their accomplishments definitely speak for themselves. Aaron and Stargell may have had better years in the 60's, but Stargell won MVP in '79 for a reason and Aaron made the All-Star team in 5 of his final 6 seasons for a reason as well. Despite there being other options in the outfield, these 3 are for sure the right choices.