Monday, November 28, 2016

World Series Now

Even though I'm baseball fan, I tend to tune out during the playoffs.  When your team has not made it to the playoffs in 15 seasons, it can be a little difficulty feeling enthused about the post-season.  I can honestly say that this century, the only times I've watched a full playoff series has been when the Red Sox were in the World Series.  I have strong ties to New England so at least the Red Sox gave me something to cheer about.  

Despite the historical match-up of two teams with the longest World Series droughts, the only game I fully caught was Game 7.  I picked the best game to watch.  I was rooting for the Indians, marginally, as I can empathize with the agony of Cleveland sports fans.  Sure the Cavs won the NBA Championship last season but as a Seattle fan, I know what it's like to have that championship drought.  

Since Game 7 was such an incredible game with the Cubs taking an early, significant lead, the Indians making a dramatic comeback, and then the rain delay to make it even more tense, I decided to buy a couple Topps Now cards to remember that game.

(As a side note, I must say that I was more impressed with my Topps Now shipment this time.  My two cards came in a hard case, sandwiched between two dummy card pieces, inside a special Topps Now box that was wrapped in bubble wrap, in a bubble mailer.  With such a production, any eBay seller probably would have charged $10 for shipping.  My shipping was free.

Also, the card stock feels thicker than earlier editions, which gives these ones a nice premium feel.)

A running joke among Mariners fans is that when a player leaves the team, they often go on to perform better than when they were with the team.  Initially, Montgomery was placed in the starting rotation with the Mariners.  Montgomery had difficulty lasting late into games so for the 2016 he was placed in the bullpen. 

I liked this move as it would give the Mariners a relief pitcher who could throw for two to three innings if needed.  He could be a solid middle reliever.  Montgomery performed a serviceable job for the Mariners so I was a bit disappointed when I found out he was traded to the Cubs. 

He didn't turn around and become an ace relief pitcher with the Cubs but he did shine on the biggest stage in the world.  Bottom of the 11th, two outs, Game 7 of the World Series, with his team up by 1 run.  It only took him two pitches to seal the deal and elevate himself in baseball and Cubs history.  

Montgomery never had a card with the Mariners so I really wanted this card as a way to tip my cap to him.

I believe this was the only Indians card to be featured from Game 7, understandably so since they lost.  There was not much to celebrate.  However, his home run to tie the gaming was remarkable.  Not only did it keep the Indians' hopes alive but he hit a TV camera and spun it around! That's what struck me so much about this home run.  He hit the TV camera dead to rights.

I love watching the replay from the view of the camera he hit.  I'm watching it again now in slow motion replay and it looks as if the camera man was turning the camera away from the ball so as to protect the lens but he ended up turning it right into the ball.  It also looks as if the camera man was turning the camera to track the ball because the ball did look like it was veering to the left.  Either way, the odds of him hitting it right at the camera is what makes this home run so exciting to me.

These were the only post-season Topps Now cards that appealed to me and I'm glad I have something to remember from watching the game.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Piping Hot Stove

The Mariners' stove this off-season has been mostly cool this offseason. General Manager Jerry DiPoto has made a few moves here and there, tinkering with the back end of the 40 man roster; nothing really to write home about. The Mariners are in "win now" mode so I haven't expected anything big.

Tonight before I headed off to the store to pick up a few last minute Thanksgiving items, I decided to take a look at Twitter real quick.  What I saw was a flurry of Mariners posts.  Trying to get my wits about me, I briefly saw the names Walker and Marte.  It turns out the Mariners traded Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Zac Curtis.

Not one to want to pass up a good blogging opportunity, I've decided to say farewell to the now former Mariners the best way I know how: through cards.

2016 Topps Mariners Team Set
2016 Topps Now

Of the two, the only player I'm disappointed to see leave is Walker.  He's been inconsistent at times but when he's on, he is dominant.  As a young pitcher, Walker's biggest problem is that when he gets into trouble he has a hard time getting himself out of it mentally.  It was not uncommon to see him leave in the 5th after only giving up a run or two because there was no way to tell if he could pull it together to prevent a further collapse.

Like I said, he is still a young pitcher.  Walker has been making progress and I think he will become a great pitcher.  Thankfully, when Walker finds his groove, the Mariners won't have to worry about facing him.

Surprisingly, I only have two cards of Taijuan in my collection according to the Trading Card Database.  As part of the COMC Black Friday sale I will probably look to pick up a cheap autograph of his.

2016 Topps Mariners Team Set
2016 Topps Bunt - Future of the Franchise 

2016 Panini Diamond Kings - Rookie Framed Signatures 

2016 Panini Diamond Kings

2016 Bowman

When Marte was called up at the end of the 2015, he appeared to be a promising player.  Although his defense was shaky, he had speed and could hit decently.  Speed and hitting have been two key attributes lacking for the Mariners that past couple seasons.  At the start of the season, I was excited to see Marte improve.  

However, Marte struggled at the plate, his defense didn't improve, and he made a couple trips to the disabled list this season.  This offseason, Marte became the elephant in the room.  Thus, I view this trade as not an commentary on Walker's inconsistency but on Marte's lackluster play.  I hope for the best for Marte because he will need it.

He didn't inspire to much excitement in me this so year considering that I have a rookie patch autograph of Marte (that I managed to pull myself), I'd say my collection of him is complete. 

2016 Topps Now

A side note of the trade is that the Mariners designated Pat Venditte to make room on the 40 man roster. Venditte didn't make much of a blip on the Mariners' radar this year, appearing in only 7 games.  He was a last season acquisition as the Mariners' pitching staff was setback by one injury after another.  Venditte's fame is for the "oh that's so baseball" stat of striking out the first two hitters he faced with both hands.  

While Walker is a big loss for the starting rotation, Segura is an instant upgrade for the infield. Whether Haniger or Curtis ever see playing time for the Mariners is too early predict.  As a whole though, I'm very optimistic about this trade.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Belated Update Cards

I actually opened up a box of 2016 Topps Update when the set was first released in mid-October.  I opened up my packs and set them aside so I could sort them later.  "Later" actually turned into a month when I finally had the time to go through 500 cards.  I don't feel busy but it always seems that the hours after work disappear quickly.

With this being end of the baseball year after I re-joined the hobby earlier this year, I figured I would close the book on 2016 with a box of Update.  I actually still need to finish collecting Series 1, though.  That will give me a good off-season project.

A very well deserved inclusion in Update for Edwin Diaz.  Diaz moved directly from AA to the Mariners in June and threw nothing but fire.  He recorded his 50th strikeout after throwing 25 1/3, which made him the fastest pitcher to reach 50 strikeouts since 1893.  He also finished the season with a rate of 15.3 strikeouts per 9 innings.  Diaz didn't assume the closer role until August 2nd and managed 18 saves.  He was 5th in Rookie of the Year voting.

I'm excited to see how Diaz progresses in 2007.

Robinson Cano was the lonely all-star for the Mariners this year. That's not to say that the rest of the team wasn't any good.  Rather the usual potential all-stars like Felix, Kyle Seager, and Cruz had some bumps in the road toward the beginning.

Taylor Motter rookie card!! Who is Taylor Motter you ask? Until Friday afternoon I had no idea either.  The Mariners traded for Motter, along with Richie Shaffer, in exchange for three minor leaguers.  This move appears to be a depth move.  


Short Print
Out of the 25 or so short prints, I hit one of the lesser exciting ones.  In 10 starts he didn't get a single win and had a bloated ERA of 7.36.  Apparently, these run 1 out of 1,224 packs so I glad to have at least pulled one with these odds.

Notable parallels included a black Xander Bogarts (#'d/65), black and white negative of Erick Aybar, and a rookie gold of Aledmys Diaz (#'d/2016).  The black and negative parallels occurred only once in my box and the gold parallels were one per pack for a total of 10.

My first hit was an All-Star Game Dual Stitches relic! This was a nice short printed card to only 25.  I like the look of the ASG relics so I was excited to get a dual patch.  Even better, the odds on the dual relics are 1:1,008.  My luck with hobby boxes isn't usually this good.

Seeing as how I pulled a hot card during the initial opening of the product, I threw it up for sale on eBay.  I couldn't resist the opportunity to make some money back on my box and buy a relic I had more interest in.  After a 7-day auction, the card sold for $42.50.

If I thought I got lucky with the dual ASG patch, I think I was even luckier with buying this First Pitch relic numbered out of 25.  When I looked for it on eBay a few weeks after release, there was an auction starting out at $4.99.  Surprisingly, I was the only bidder.  I couldn't believe it considering other First Pitch relics were going for at least $20-$40.  For a card that has odds of 1 per 1,506 packs, I pretty much stole this card.


The only All-Star relic I was hoping to pull was the Cano relic.  Although it wasn't in my box, it was another cheap buy on eBay.

My second relic card of the box was an Al Kaline 3000 Hits Club Medallion.  Usually, I don't mind manufactured relics but the weird flowery background is not appealing.

My final hit of the box, a Scouting Report autograph.  Not the autograph I was hoping for but I was easily able to remedy that...

Why did Topps give Vincent a unibrow?

The Nick Vincent autograph was the card I hoped to pull.  Even though it wasn't in my box, it was an inexpensive eBay purchase for only a couple dollars.  It can be tough being a Mariners fan with all the heartbreak but on the flip side, not everyone is trying to chase their cards making them cheap.

That wraps up Topps flagship!  It has been a fun year collecting baseball cards again.  As I look forward to 2017, it's hard to know whether I'll try to collect the full flagship set.  Right now I don't like the design.  This year's set didn't grab me a first either so it's possible things will change.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bumping Into Cards

One of my wife's friends is visiting from out of town this week on a business trip so we all went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant.  Everything was going swimmingly.  We were all catching up and eating good food.

About three-quarters of the way through our dinner, the restaurant started filling up with smoke. There wasn't a fire but the kitchen had badly burned some food.  I could never figure out what caused the smoke but I suspect it was a pizza in their oven that burned.  No matter the food, the smoke would not dissipate.  My eyes were burning and my chest felt heavy.

Worst of all?  There was nary an apology over the smoke storm they created and it was obviously affecting other patrons as well.  If their restaurant could not even handle smoke from the kitchen, I question whether the place could safely manage a fire.  Needless to say, I won't eat there again.

I could not run out of that restaurant fast enough to get fresh air.  It felt so nice to be able to breathe again and find relief.

Speaking of running, today's post highlights a trade I made with Trevor at Bump and Run Football Card Blog.   He posted on my blog indicating he had a few 2008 Topps Football to trade.  I can't turn down an opportunity to collect more 2008 Topps so we settled on a nice trade.  As the name implies, Trevor posts mainly about football so our trade focused on football cards.  You can see what I sent him over on his blog.

Getting the 2008 Topps out of the way, I received a few football set needs.  Trevor also included some baseball as a bonus! I haven't checked whether I needed them or not but either way the gesture is appreciated!

2016 Classics is a set I've really enjoyed this year with the retro look.  Both of these rookies were signed by the Seahawks with only Alex Collins making it on the roster.  He's had limited playing time so far this year.

During my previous look at Prestige I remarked that outside of the Seahawks, I wouldn't be collecting any more Prestige.  Well here comes Prestige again, thankfully with only Seahawks.  The two rainbow foil cards are Extra Points parallels.  

This year Lynch's absence is glaringly obvious.  The Seahawks' run game just hasn't been the same. Thomas Rawls, the heir to Lynch's throne, has been injured for most of the year.  Hopefully, he will provide a spark to the anemic run game.   

The last set features a nice mix of new and old Seahawks cards.  I didn't become a Seahawks fan until I moved out west from New England so some names aren't familiar, like Vann McElroy and Kelvin. Other older players like Jon Kitna, Darrell Jackson and Bennie Blades are names I immediately recognize. The Blades and Jackson cards have writing throughout the background that shows up slightly on the scans.  It's a cool looking effect in person.  Out of the four modern Seahawks players, coincidentally all four were part of the Super Bowl winning team.  

This was a great trade with some set needs and PC needs completed.  I look forward to trading with Trevor again!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

No Purchase Necessary

I've been sick since Thursday and I'm starting to feel better now that I've had plenty of rest but I wanted to highlight today's today mail day.  Today I received my first ever "No Purchase Necessary" card.

If you aren't aware, on every package of cards is a list of insert/parallel cards and for Topps products, the odds of receiving those cards.  By law, the trading card companies are required to offer the purchaser a chance to win those cards.  The same rules apply to other products that give you the chance to win something by buying a certain product.

To date, I've submitted 17 entries for NPN cards.  I do not keep track of when the drawings occur because I'd rather be surprised instead of checking my mail after the drawing occurs.  So it's possible that out of the 17 entries  not all of them have had their drawings.

With all that said, what did I win??

A base card of 2016 Bowman.  Even though it is just a base card, at least Topps protected the card well.  A toploader, penny sleeve, and sticker are likely worth more than the card itself.  This was a base card I needed so I can't be too disappointed.  Rather than breaking out the card, I think I'll keep it secured as a memento for my first NPN win.

I wanted to add that even if you don't buy new packs of cards there is a great website that tracks most of the NPN entries.  Head over to NPN Cards to find out all the details for how to enter.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A SuperSonic trade day

With the Sonics back in the news, it's only fitting that I finally get around to posting about a trade I made with Billy over at Cardboard History.

Due to the partial fault of my own and partial fault of sellers on Sportlots, I ended with multiples of Stickums 2 Base cards from 96-97 Collector's Choice.  I didn't due to my due diligence prior to purchase to make sure the cards were correctly sorted and neither did the sellers.  Only after I was I looking at scans on TCDB did I realize my mistake.

The cards were cheap so I didn't want to run the expense of mailing them back for refunds.  Rather, I thought I could turn them into a trade.  Fortunately, I was able to make a trade with Billy for some Supersonics.  He even sent a few more than I asked for! Thanks!

I'm not going to bury the lead.  Here is the highlight of the trade: a Kevin Durant rookie card! This is actually from the 07-08 Topps Rookie insert but a great card to have either way.

It was bad enough that the Sonics were swept out of town by the backstabbing Clay Bennett but Seattle had only a brief glimpse of a likely Hall of Famer.  I know everyone and their brother in Oklahoma were mad at Durant when he left the Thunder but I couldn't have been happier.  I can finally root for Durant again.

2005-06 Upper Deck Rookie Debut
This set name is a misnomer as not all of the cards in the sets are of rookies.  None of these Sonics players were rookies at the time.  I still like the look of the cards so I'm willing to overlook the discrepancy.  Now that I have Collector's Choice under wraps, I'm considering adding this set to my active set want list.

Up above I mentioned that the Sonics were in the news again but it's not the team that is in the news, it's the proposed stadium.

Back a few years ago, an investor named Chris Hansen pledged to build a basketball arena in Seattle and bring back the Sonics. Woohoo!  Hansen, who grew up in Seattle, should know that this city does not like to make decisions quickly.  His plan was to build an arena near all the other Seattle stadiums using $200 million in bonds backed by the city.

The Seattle City Council wasn't quite sure if it liked the idea but eventually entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that basically said they would issue the bonds.  The major caveat was that Hansen had to secure a team first.  The NBA won't even talk expansion prior an arena plan is in place and Sacramento managed to hold onto their team despite a rocky future at one point.

This last week, Hansen unleashed a new plan: he would pay for the entire stadium himself.  No public money would be necessary.  All he wants is for the City to give him part of a public street is necessary for the arena and in return Hansen will pay about $20 million for a transportation project that the City needs to be funded.  This is a game changer.

The biggest opponents of the new arena are the Port of Seattle ("too much traffic interfering with our freight!") and the Mariners ("it will depress our attendance more than the on the field action!").  If this deal doesn't happen, it will ultimately be due to the Port convincing the City Council that "thousands" of jobs will be lost.  Personally, I think it's mere puffery by the Port.

There's one more wrinkle to the Hansen arena plan.  But before I mention that, I want to remark that above is a Shawn Kemp rookie card! The Reign Man! I love it.

Back to the Stadium, one would think that with the news of Hansen's new plan, the City would be ecstatic. Not quite.  A few days after the news, Seattle mayor Ed Murray announced that the City would soon be accepting Requests for Proposals to develop the Key Arena into a multipurpose facility that could handle NBA or NHL teams.

This is mind boggling for several reasons.  First, the Key Arena is owned by the City of Seattle.  To renovate the Key so that it could handle the NBA will cost somewhere between $200-$300 million. That's $200-$300 million in public money.  Hansen is building an arena at $0 cost to the public.

Second, the Key is located in a transportation abyss.  The bus service to the Key is less than adequate. Hansen's proposed arena is currently served by light rail and multiple, branching bus stops.  The Key has very limited public parking nearby.  The opposite is true of the proposed Sonics arena.  Lastly, the road service to and around the Key is tight.  Traffic leaving a new Sonics arena could take any number of roads out of there.  

Whenever and wherever we get a new Sonics arena, at least I'll have these Sonics cards.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Integrity of Relics

One of my favorite aspects of collecting cards are the relics.  I'll probably never buy a full game-used jersey or other item as the prices are more than I want to spend.  Even if the relic pieces are small, it's still cool to own a piece of memorabilia connected to the players.

Lately, I've been enjoying bat/wood relics more so than jersey relics.  Part of my fatigue with jersey relics is that white jerseys are far too common.  Don't get me wrong, I still like the jersey but something different would be nice every now and then.  Arguably, bat relics are just as boring as white jerseys because the bats are just a plain piece of wood.

Sometimes cards companies like to add a personal touch to the wood piece.

2001 SP Game Bat Milestone - Piece of Action Bound for the Hall #B-KG(M)

Here we see a baseball and #24 etched into the bat piece of Ken Griffey Jr.  Upper Deck still indicates on that back of the card that this is an authentic piece of a bat used by Griffey.  Although it's not clear on the card, I think it's safe to say that Griffey does not have small etchings of his number throughout his bat.

The modification makes me wonder if this relic piece is now less authentic because it's not presented in its original state.  Personally, so long as the card company is still guaranteeing the authenticity of the game-used piece, I'm okay with tasteful modifications.  I'm also okay with them so long as they are used in moderation.  For Griffey's card, I think the inclusion of the number is done in a pleasing manner.  

2000-01 SP Game Floor - Authentic Floor #RL

This card has an even greater justification for etching the logo into the floor piece.  The game floor is not from the Key Arena, home of the Seattle Supersonics, but from a "basketball floor in which Rashard Lewis played on during an NBA game."  That tells me nothing.  Who knows where this floor came from.  At least with the Sonics logo, the floor piece feels more authentic to the player.  

2016 Panini Diamond Kings - DK Framed Materials #DKM-NC

Since I'm on the topic of bat relics, I wanted to include a card that is the best of both worlds.  The jersey piece is not white but a cream color.  These are the Sunday alternates that the Mariners wear only for Sunday home games.  I really like the look of the cream alternates and I bought my first ever baseball jersey in this style.

Cruz modeling the Sunday uniform
The bat piece is from Nelson Cruz's "boomstick." That's the nickname that has been given to his baseball bats.  I just like the idea of having a piece of the boomstick.  No modification was needed here for the bat relic and if there was it would have severely diminished the look of the card.  

What are your thoughts on modified relics? Love, hate, don't even like relics?