Monday, November 25, 2013

Clubhouse APB: Unfinished Sets!

Sunday marked the first card show I had a chance to sneak off to in quite some time.  Well, maybe it wasn't that long of a layoff.  It may have only been a month or six weeks, but it seemed like a long time to me anyways.

One of my goals was to finish off some of my lingering 2013 set needs.  And while I was able to do okay for the most part, I'm still short on three specific fronts.

I found five of the 10 cards I need to polish off the 425-card base set from this year's Heritage offering.  That includes everyone's favorite baseball hero, Mr. Rodriguez.

I'm still shy these five:

41 -- Jeter/Trout "Friendly Foes"
54 -- Ron Gardenhire
135 -- Dominic Brown
157 -- Charlie Manuel
190 -- Derek Jeter

Two managers.  Two Phillies.  Two Jeters.  What the flippin' heck?!

Series 2 Topps was another set I had high hopes of putting a major dent in, or even putting to sleep.  

I figured it would be a snap finding all 13 of the cards I required for a completed Series 2, yet this Seth Smith was one of just three I could scrounge up in the oasis of dime boxes.  I probably could have snagged more, but that would have required me spending upwards of a quarter per card.  And I have a hang up about spending more than a nickel or dime on Topps base cards.

Here are the remaining 10 from Series 2 that I'm lacking:

504 -- Michael Bourn
513 -- Zach McAllister
542 -- Jeff Niemann
561 -- Josh Vitters
584 -- Alfonso Soriano
601 -- Brandon Moss
646 -- Phillippe Aumont
648 -- Dan Straily
649 -- Ryan Hannigan
658 -- David Freese

Nothing too exciting here, though the Hannigan card is one of the most pleasing of the "catcher in action" photographs from the entire set.

Finally, I figured to do some heavy lifting with 2013 Archives.  The collation is so shoddy with this product that I had resigned from buying any more packs and decided to attack the rest of the checklist via card shows and trades.

Twenty-seven cards at a dime apiece made me a pretty happy camper.  Despite this hefty effort, I'm left looking at 20 gaps in my checklist.

1 -- Babe Ruth
6 -- Adrian Gonzalez
13 -- Ryan Zimmerman
30 -- Yu Darvish
43 -- Starling Marte
48 -- Ryne Sandberg
49 -- Alcides Escobar
51 -- Carlos Gonzalez
55 -- CC Sabathia
69 -- Eddie Mathews
73 -- Aroldis Chapman
83 -- Jim Johnson
86 -- Jackie Robinson
87 -- AJ Burnett
108 -- Austin Jackson
122 -- RA Dickey
139 -- Matt Holiday
186 -- Brett Lawrie
198 -- Jason Heyward
200 -- Mike Trout

Was that Trout card short-printed or what?  Sheesh!  

Anyhow, any and all help would be appreciated.  If you've got a box of dupes and would like to lend a hand, shoot me an email or leave a comment.  I'm sure we can work out some sort of exchange.

Thanks for checking in!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Boardwalk Empirical Data

Long before baseball geeks coast to coast were obsessed with Bill James, Billy Beane, OPS and WHIP, Topps gave us RPA.

Oh, you're not down with RPA?  That's Runs Produced Average, of course.

Y'see, I had this 1987 Boardwalk and Baseball "Top Run Makers" set -- one of the seemingly hundreds of oddball boxed sets produced by Topps during the '80s -- on my eBay watch list for what seemed like an eternity. And a few months ago I finally pulled the trigger and grabbed one of the 33-card sets.  Naturally, I love it to pieces.

But, while the card design and photography are both enjoyable, the true uniqueness of this set can be found in the sabermetric delight found on the reverse side.

Talk about revolutionary!  Ahead of its time?  I think so!  Sit on it, WAR!

Now, I understand that the whole RPA thing never launched into the upper atmosphere of the game and the analysis thereof, but kudos to the Topps folks for taking a different tack when drumming up these boxed set off-shoots.  It's different, we can all agree upon that.

And, it's not like this is a throwaway number.  To me, personally, I find it interesting to know that Steve Garvey was individually responsible for producing 1.04 runs per game for his career through the 1986 season.

Do players get contracts based upon this number?  Have they ever?  Will they ever?  Well, I'm sure Beane's pocket protector posse uses some derivation of this statistic when convincing themselves and the world that they know more about baseball than you do.  Whether they use the "RPA" designation for it is beyond my research (or desire for research).

In the big picture of baseball cards, though, does any of this desk jockey stuff really matter?  It's still just another number on the back of a bubble gum card.  Whether the card back features oodles of numbers, amusing cartoons, or trivial tidbits in which a mother could barely feign interest, a baseball card only captures you as far as the presentation on the front.

As far as my tastes are concerned, this set hits a home run.  I generally adore most any of these Topps oddball outputs, but this one likely sits at or near the top.

And I don't need any fractions or formulas to tell me that.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Me, Uncle Steve, and '77 Topps

As a 33 year old man, I'm still kinda crazy about baseball cards.  But, when I was eight, I was really crazy about baseball cards.  I could probably count on one hand the number of things that were more important to me than wonderful, beautiful Topps cards in 1988...and still have a few fingers and a thumb left over.

That's why it was a huge deal when one glorious day that my Grandma Ree-Ree (we called her that because her first name was Marie) presented eight-year-old Me with a shoe box full of cards from the '70s that once belonged to my Uncle Steve.  Talk about being over the moon.

But, once my Uncle Steve caught wind of the fact that his childhood collection had been given away without his consent, the gig was up.  He gave poor Ree-Ree some grief, and then my mom some grief.

Well, in the end, after a long soul-searching talk with my mom, I wound up giving the box of cards back to my uncle.  And I even accompanied it with a handwritten note...

Pretty crappy drawing, eh?  I know I was only eight, but...jeez, that's a terrible drawing.  Anyhow, Uncle Steve was a cop back in those days, thus the police car.

Well, fast forward about, oh, 18 years, and Uncle Steve was packing up his belongings and moving to Florida.  In an effort to downsize, that box of baseball cards -- which included my fabulous archival note -- was presented to me once again.  This time for keeps.

I know what you're thinking: Why the heck are you sharing this with us, Mark?

Well, for starters, the majority of the cards from Uncle Steve's collection consisted of 1977 Topps.  Hundreds of them, actually.  Most in pretty decent condition.  Included in the mix were cards of Yount, Bench, Koosman, Morgan, Sutton and various other stars of the era.

With a pretty good foundation for the 660-card checklist, I finally made the commitment about a year or so ago to actually attempt to complete the '77 set.  I still need quite a few cards -- including a couple major doozies -- but I'm in no rush.

The package of cards that Adam from Upstate NY sent me recently included a bunch of '77s that I needed, so that got me thinking of my old box of cards from Uncle Steve and the yellowing letter you see above.

Here are some of my favorites from Adam's package...

I guess I've been looking for an excuse to post that laughable letter to my uncle from a quarter of a century ago. Thanks for giving me the impetus to do so, Adam.  Rest assured the new additions to my '77 set are well appreciated.  And don't even think about asking for them back!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Four Topps, #517

Today's Four Topps proves out the theorem that not every unmemorable card number in a late '80s Topps checklist produces a lackluster player. mostly does.  But, every so often, a promising young player -- who just might go on to have a Hall of Fame career -- sneaks into a mundane spot in the checklist.

Without further ado, brings us today's card number: 517.


Many of the Cincinnati Reds cards from the '87 Topps set contained photographs from this same field, which I assume was Cincy's spring complex.  Take a look back at your Reds cards from this set and you'll see that same Carolina blue wall in the background.  Anyhow, I kinda dig this card, as we see Soto engaging in a game of long toss.  Hey, Stat Man:  Soto lost 10 games for the Reds in 1986, marking the fourth time in five years that he absorbed double-digit losses.


Another Reds pitcher.  From spring training.  And what's with the yellow, blue, and pink design elements on this card?  I guess we'll just chalk it up to Topps being in the totally '80s spirit.  Hey, Stat Man: Robinson contributed seven wins and four saves for the '87 Reds.


Milwaukee first baseman Greg Brock thankfully breaks up the monotony of Reds cards at the 715 slot. Remember when the Brewers were in the AL?  Remember when players wore uniforms that actually fit?  Simpler days.  Hey, Stat Man: In his second year with Milwaukee, Brock smacked six homers and delivered 50 RBIs for the '88 Brewers.


This was surely a nice surprise, finding Hall of Famer second baseman Roberto Alomar mixed in with the likes of Don Robinson and Greg Brock (no offense).  Of course, this was very early in Roberto's career, as this represents just his second regular Topps card -- not counting his '88 Traded entry.  The Padres cards from '90s Topps are pretty darn sharp, no?  Hey, Stat Man: Alomar put up a monster season for San Diego in 1989, hitting .295 with 56 RBIs and 42 steals in 158 games.

And the Winner Is:  A slam dunk as far as I'm concerned.  Gotta give Alomar '90 the nod from this group.  The runner-up spot goes to Soto.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Clubhouse Correspondence: Trice as Nice

A flurry of incoming activity here at Kaz Manor of late.  And that's in spite of the fact that I've been a complete and total bum and haven't gotten my arse to the post office in forever.  Nonetheless, I've made some pretty great blogger companions who have continued to keep their eyes open for me.

TJ, aka The Junior Junkie, hit me up with a PWE that included a few Orel Hershiser cards, including the beauty up top.  I've come close to pulling the trigger for this card on COMC on multiple occasions, so it's pretty cool that TJ caught the 'wavelength' and floated this one my way.  Like Stadium Club and Topps Total, Topps Pristine was one of those products that Topps did right.  Can't we bring these back and get rid of some of the flotsam that we're served today?

Also from TJ:

Classic UD Collector's Choice charm oozing outa this one.  The '96 Indians rotation is on display here, with Nagy, El Presidente, Black Jack and Bulldog present and accounted for.  This would be a fantastic card for any of the pictured hurlers, but only Denny was lucky enough to snag the honor.

Like Hershiser and Martinez, Sabo is a guy not listed on my official "Player Collections" page that I can't get enough of.  I ought to just get it over with and make up a spreadsheet for them.  But, that would require me not being a lazy blob, which comes natural for me sadly.

TJ, these are some awesome picture cards -- muchos gracias!

Next up, Corey Stack from the New Mexico law offices -- oh yeah, and that wonderful Tim Wallach thing -- checked in with a complete set of '88 Fleer Headliners.

These things freakin' rock!  This was probably the most attractive Headliners insert set that Fleer produced in the '80s.  Stack has some good taste!

Thanks for the nod, Corey, and good luck to your Orangemen hoopsters this year.  And, keep the faith with Doug Marrone and those plucky Bills.  We're not dead yet!

And last but not least, my good friend Marcus from way down in RG3 country loaded up a team bag and shared the glorious contents of this recent '93 Ultra box break plus some extra goodies.

Lots to love about Fleer Ultra from '92 and '93.  Two of the best sets of the era, in my opinion.  Check out the rest of Mr. Backstop's box break and the rest of his blog if you haven't already.  And I know most of you follow him already, so you don't need me to tell you.

Aside from oodles of Mets from the Ultra batch, I also scored a handsome Carlos Baerga insert for the ol' player collection.

It also looks like Marcus has been trying his hand at Update recently, as many of us have been I'm sure.  I'm about 80% done with the base set, but I'll probably still be snagging some retail packs and such for all the fun parallels.  Like this one:

I know I'm biased, but I'm pretty sure these were the best BP jerseys and caps ever featured at an All-Star Game.  The caps especially.  I'm also down with Mr. Met being on the sleeve of the Wright's BP top.

Finally, one that definitely finds the sweet spot...

Man, it feels like forever since I got a new 2013 Heritage card for either the regular set or the parallel pursuit, so this was a very pleasant surprise.  Fitting that it's a Padre from a big-time Friars fan.

Great stuff, Marcus; thanks for passing along the joy!

And, I promise, folks, I'll be getting around to returning the favors very soon.  Unless I'm captured and held for ransom between now and Sunday, I'll be heading out to my first card show in quite a while.  So I'll be looking for stuff for all my usual pals.

Til then, keep on enjoying the hobby!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Buffalo Gameday, November 17, 2013

Wellp, the Bills' season is in critical condition.  A badly played game in Pittsburgh last Sunday resulted in a third consecutive loss and put Buffalo's season mark at 3-7.  At this point, they'd have to win-out and finish 9-7 to even have an outside chance at postseason football.

Buffalo will look to begin that improbable trek this afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium where the New York Jets (5-4) pay a 1 p.m. visit.  The Jets already defeated the Bills this season, a 27-20 decision at MetLife Stadium in Week 3.

The Bills will need a much better performance from their young signal caller if they want to overcome Rex Ryan's attacking defense.

To say it was an unceremonious return to the starting lineup for rookie quarterback EJ Manuel would be a vast understatement.  He was equal parts rusty and just plain ol' bad at Heinz Field last Sunday, his first action in nearly a month thanks to a knee injury that caused him to miss four games.  By the time Manuel got his team into the endzone, the game's outcome had already been decided.

Adding injury to the insult, Buffalo's receiving corps took a huge blow in the health department.  Top wideout Stevie Johnson and 2013 second-round draft selection Robert Woods both left the Steelers game with injuries and, worse than that, neither will be available for today's game.

That means the Bills are down to just four healthy wide receivers on their active roster: TJ Graham, Marcus Easley, rookie Marquise Goodwin and journeyman Chris Hogan.


Graham (left) and Goodwin (right) both possess world-class speed, which the Bills ought to use to exploit a weak Jets secondary.  But, the success of that gameplan would depend upon Manuel's downfield accuracy, which has been a red flag on the rookie's report card thus far.  Plus, a forecast of gusty conditions figures to make a deep passing attack even more challenging.

Most likely, the Bills will need productive efforts from their backfield duo of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, the latter somewhat landing in head coach Doug Marrone's doghouse lately for his inability to hit the seams with conviction.  Hopefully, Marrone and OC Nate Hackett figure out how to get Spiller more involved in the passing game--something former coach Chan Gailey excelled at.

On defense, Buffalo needs to keep the heat on rookie QB Geno Smith and force him into mental lapses.  The Bills have racked up a whopping 33 sacks this year, but could not corral Smith in the season's first meeting. They did intercept the rookie twice, however; something Smith is prone to.

The true x-factor of this game, though, is Rex Ryan's perennial ability to successfully gameplan the Bills and, especially, rookie QBs. Manuel never looked comfortable against the Jets blitz packages back in September, and I don't see that changing much today.  Especially with Buffalo's top two receivers out.

The Bills are one-point favorites today, but I can't envision them capturing a W this afternoon unless Geno Smith has a complete and utter meltdown.

My Week 11 Picks:  A decent showing last week: 2-1.  This week, lemme get the Redskins (+4.5) to cover or win versus Philadelphia; the Saints (-3) to handle the Niners in the Dome; and the Broncos (-7.5) to bring the Chiefs back to Earth.

Have a great NFL Sunday!


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Have You Met...?

I was able to add to new players to my All-Time Mets Project recently thanks to Steve D. from Brooklyn.

Marlon Anderson was one of my favorite Mets from the Willie Randoph/Jerry Manuel era in the mid-to-late '00s. He actually had two stints in New York: a 123-game sample in 2005 and then a three-year stay lasting from the 2007 trade deadline to the end of his big league career in 2009.  In his four years as a Met, Anderson compiled a .253 average with 11 homers and 54 RBIs.  But more so than his contributions at the plate, Marlon's real value was in the field, where he played almost any position the team needed.

Southpaw Chris Capuano was rescued off the scrapheap by GM Sandy Alderson in 2011, and he turned out to be a pretty solid starter for the Mets in his lone season in Queens.  In 33 games (31 starts), the Duke product crafted an 11-12 record with three complete game efforts.  Capuano became a free agent after that season and subsequently signed with that blue and white team in Los Angeles.

Thanks for sending these along, Steve!

I'm making pretty decent progress with the ATMP.  Check it out, and if you've got any of the players I need -- as long as they're in Mets colors -- drop me a line and I'll gladly work out something with ya.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Four Topps, #325

It's been a while, so let's jump back into the Four Topps feature!  As usual, today's card number comes courtesy of  So let's take a look at what card no. 325 has to offer between the years of 1987 and 1990, the four years that were the foundation of my card collecting days.


Is this not a serious looking dude or what?  Garry "Don't You Dare Forget the Second R" Templeton appeared in multiple All-Star Games during his career and also snared a pair of Silver Slugger awards at the shortstop position.  The back of the card tells us that "Garry and his wife are the parents of 3 children."  Hey, Stat Man: Templeton hit .247 with 25 extra-base hits for the Padres in 1986.


It looks like Hubbard was all about the "business in front, party in the back" approach to grooming.  For some reason, Atlanta Braves cards from the '88 set do very little for me in the excitement department.  But, I do miss the good ol' days when Atlanta was a second division team.  Hey, Stat Man:  Established a career high with 33 doubles in 1987.


This is the second time we've come across Barfield since this feature got started.  Previously we saw Jesse's 1990 Topps card as part of the inaugural Four Topps entry.  He was a Yankee on that card, while we see a very happy Barfield in Toronto blue on this one.  I really like the Blue Jays cards from the '89 set.  Just something about those shades of blue.  Hey, Stat Man:  Contributed nine game-winning RBI to the '88 Jays.


There are lots of puzzling things in life; things we may never understand in our mortal shells.  One of them is why Topps used lime green accents on the S.F. Giants cards in 1990.  Oh well, I do appreciate it in a nonsensical way.  Then again, I like 1990 Topps, so you can't go by my biased eyes.  Hey, Stat Man:  Robby led the National League with 11 triples in 1989.

And the Winner Is:  At first glance I wasn't crazy about any of them but, as with most cards, the more you gaze at 'em the better appreciation you garner.  So, in the battle of players whose first names each contain a double letter (didn't think I noticed, did you?), I'll crown the '90 Robby Thompson the winner of this bunch, narrowly ousting Garry and his blue sky.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Mega Box?

Have you seen and/or picked up one of these yet?  I was at Target earlier today and spied this on the shelf.  Having heard about these through the hobby grapevine previously, I was curious to pick one up and see what sort of luck I'd have with the two "exclusive" Topps Chrome Traded packs.

Pack 1

A pretty decent haul from the first pack.  Three All-Stars, highlighted by Bryce Harper, and a black refractor numbered 42/99.

Pack 2

The second go-round wasn't as exciting as the first crack, but the Rendon rookie is a nice get.  I also found it interesting that the insert cards were still in the mix.  I wasn't expecting that.

Nothing sexy to speak of in any of the five regular Update packs, in case you were wondering.

Should we really consider these "mega boxes?"  They carry a $14.99 price tag, which might be the "mega" part, I suppose.  And the regular packs aren't even of the 12-card variety; instead just eight cards per pack.  Still, it was fun ripping into the Chrome packs, and that is the true allure of these boxes anyhow.