Monday, April 28, 2014

Triple Play: 2014 Zack Wheeler and the NBA

I guess I need to do a better job of paying attention, because until I got an envelope of cards from Corey Stack, aka the mind behind Wallach blog, I wasn't aware Zack Wheeler had three "The Future is Now" inserts in this year's Topps release.

For starters, there's the one above.  I think that's the one I was aware of originally.

But, then there's this one...

But good things (or is it bad things?) usually come in threes, so there's still another Wheeler from this insert set...

All three cards are pretty, uh, pretty.  Plenty of blue and orange just like baseball cards oughta be.  And, in all three, Wheeler is making his serious pitching face.  The same kinda face your's truly has to put on when he's trying to squeeze into suit pants from three years ago.

Now, for all I know, there might be three more Wheeler cards yet.  But, I'm gonna just assume that this trio represents the entirety of Wheelers from The Future is Now.  And I'm also going to assume every player has three cards.  Right?

Anyhow, in keeping with the power-of-three theme, and in the spirit of the NBA playoffs, Stack also dropped this bad boy on me:

Ya know, it's kinda strange that two of these three guys played for the Celtics during their careers.  The odd man out, of course, is the mug on the right.  He's a pretty decent player, though, even if he is a villain.  Overall, this is a mighty sweet card.

Lastly, might I submit this one for your approval:

Seriously?  This is pretty fantastic.  Not just that something called the 1975 Joe Garagiola/Bazooka Bubble Gum Blowing Championship occurred, but that Topps saw fit to include this card in their 1976 checklist.  Topps was pretty cool back then, eh?

Looks like quite a bit of thought went into this event.  I feel kinda dopey having never heard of this previously.  I'm wondering how they went about seeding the brackets and, furthermore, what credentials qualified you for the tournament.

That's one saucy PWE you cooked up for me, Stack.  Thanks a bunch!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Four Topps, #417

Man, I really enjoy doing this feature and it's, by far, my favorite of all other regular features I've tried out.  After all, it's essentially the only one that hasn't flamed out due to boredom or lack of motivation.

That's why it really bugs me that I haven't been able to do it more regularly.  At this rate, I'll be a grandfather by the time I knock out all 792 base cards and 132 traded series cards.

But, instead of p*ssing and moaning, why not get on with the show?  My childhood favorites -- 1987 through 1990 Topps -- go under the microscope, card by card: That's what Four Topps is all about.  As usual, provides today's card number.

Here we go with card No. 417...

What's black and white and red all over?  Never mind...  This card smacks of Spring Training-ness.  Either that or he's in the backyard of my old house on Half Acre Road.  I love the circular Cardinals logo, by the way.  One of my all-time favorites.  The note on the back of the card informs us, "Pat enjoys playing ping-pong in his spare time."  Cool, dude.  Hey, Stat Man:  Appeared in 46 games during his rookie season in 1986, posting a 2-3 record in relief.

Mark Ciardi's cap badly wants to be a visor.  Either that or this was one those promotional caps that came crammed inside 30-packs of Old Milwaukee Light.  And what's with stretched out collar of his jersey?  Wait a minute...this isn't a Brewers uniform at all; it's a costume from Spirit Halloween, isn't it?  Hey, Stat Man:  Mark's one and only year in the bigs was 1987, as he authored a 9.37 ERA over 4 appearances.

If the Devil played in the National League and he had a card in the '89 Topps set, his name would be Mike LaCoss and his card would look like this.  Though, one might be tempted to chuckle at the Prince of Darkness if he appeared before you wearing a mesh-backed cap.  Still, he probably throws a mean split-finger.  Hey, Stat Man:  Hurled a four-hit shutout at St. Louis on July 8, his only complete game of the '88 season.

Speaking of Old Milwaukee, Jim Gantner takes on the looks of a guy who probably slugged down a few in his day. And, considering he played his entire 17-year career for the Brew Crew, he probably had his fair share of said brewskis.  Then again, we're talking about a guy who had just 47 round-trippers for his career.  So perhaps he was sipping Zima instead?  Hey, Stat Man:  Matched a career-high with 20 stolen bases in 1989.

And the Winner Is:  I like the LaCoss card, but in kinda the same way I also enjoy the movie adaptation of Pet Semetary.  Both are cool, but both make me uncomfortable.  I'll go with the Gantner as the top dog of the litter.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

On the Horizon: More Friars


As far as horizontal cards go, you can't get much cleaner or more attractive than a shot like this one.  Whether or not you know Wiki Gonzalez from Adam is besides the point.  The former San Diego catcher and short-lived big leaguer has one of the snazzier cards from the 2001 Topps set.

This and a bundle of other horizontal dandies came my way not too long ago from my main man Marcus of Backstop Cards.  Marcus has really been a big help with my ongoing frankenset project which places cards of landscape orientation at center stage.  Of course, a good many of them are Padre themed, but that's A-OK in my book when they take on the appearance of Sir Wiki.


Another sure-fire, stone-cold lock for lifetime admission into the Horizotal Heroes frankenset.  It would take quite an out-of-this-world card to knock Tony's boy from his perch at slot No. 96.  You think his old man could ever make his body move like that?


Khalil Greene always bothered me during his playing days.  Maybe is was his long hair; perhaps it was his penchant for coming up with some big hits whenever his team opposed the Mets.  I can't hold any of that against him in this instance.  This is a great-looking card.


The combination of the camo top and the catcher's crouch make Michael Barrett's 2008 Upper Deck card a supreme winner.  I'm starting to wonder which set is the Upper Deck's greatest in terms of kick-ass photos: 1993 or 2008.  That would be a pretty good study.


Despite the lack of an official MLB license and, therefore, no team names, etc., Upper Deck's 2010 set holds it own in the photography department.  Heath Bell--a former Met--is a big boy and does a pretty good job of filling up the horizontal frame.  Looks like he could use a bit more head room, though.

Not all the neat horizontal cards I received from Marcus were Friars...

Ah, Robbie Cano in his new threads.  Well, yes, of course, this is photoshopped, but you get the idea.  My first card of the former Yankee in Seattle colors.  I finally decided to start collecting Cano's cards last year, so this one will join its cousins in the player collection box.


I collect Brett Butler, too, but luckily I have a copy of this in my BB collection already.  So this one is free to join the ranks of the frankenset.  Looks to me that Brett is about to smack the Dodger logo into right field for a base hit.  No objections here!

Okay, aside from help with the horizontal cards, Marcus is always a good bet to share the wealth when it comes to my Heritage addiction.  I'm sure it has something to do with all the begging and pleading I do.  Who knows.

This is definitely my favorite card from this year's Heritage, and I love the blue border version even better. Fernandez is one of the best young guns in the big leagues and he happens to one of the current non-Mets that I really root for.  Coming off a big rookie campaign, Jose is off to a great start this season.  His 14-strikeouts against Atlanta earlier this week tied a career high.

With these additions, I've now got 11 of the 25 Walmart parallels from this year's Heritage.  Though I'm not quite at the halfway point to completing the collection, but that's a pretty darn good start.

Not a bad duo of right-handers on display here.  I'll say it again: These are the best-looking New Age Performers that the Heritage brand has ever churned out.  It's all about the banner on the left edge.

And, to cap things off, how about some 2014 Mets...

As one of the top names in prospect circles, Travis d'Arnaud sure does have his fill of cards across all the Topps and Bowman sets this year.  Hopefully his on-field production will justify the deluge of d'Arnauds.  He's off to a slow start with the bat, but he's a hell of a defensive catcher already.  Love this card, by the way.

I've have a devil of a time pulling a lot of Mets from my Heritage pack ripping ventures.  So I was happy to see these in the package that Marcus sent.  I need 'em both for my Heritage base set as well as my Mets collection. I especially love that Jenrry Mejia.  Might have to add that one to the All-Time Mets binder.

Cheers to you, Backstop, for another terrific package of cards!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Back in Black

The best news of the collecting season -- at least as far as I'm concerned -- came via Night Owl's blog earlier this week: Heritage blister packs are back for 2014!

I was beginning to doubt whether or not these bad boys would be employed by Topps this year, as Heritage has been out for well over a month without a blister sighting.  But, the Owl's report gave me hope that my local Target would have 'em in stock.

Usually, the Target in my area is a day late and a dollar short when it comes to stocking new trading cards in a timely fashion.  To my astonishment, however, a visit to the Bullseye on Tuesday afternoon proved worthwhile, as there were six three-pack blister packages in stock.  Without much thought, I scooped up all six and hustled on over to the register.

What can I say, I'm all about Heritage parallels, especially the black-bordered bonus cards that you can only get in these packages.

For my money, a bundle of blisters beats buying a box.  [Ed. Note: A-plus for alliteration!]  I'd rather have the special parallel versions of the cards than, say, a Russell Martin relic or a color/jersey/logo variation card.  That's just me, though, and I've been told I'm strange.

But, look how great this year's black parallels look.  Totally worth the burden of taking on the boatload of base card duplicates that comes along with buying retail.

And, look Ma, no duplicates!  Two full pages -- 18 cards -- of black bordered goodness.  The Stanton and the Arenado are my two favorite of the lot.  But all of them are lovable in their own special ways.

While these surely were the highlights of my purchase, I also managed a pair of chrome cards which won't be staying with me for too much longer.

This one will be heading to Pat at Hot Corner Cards, since he's been so good to me with Mets inserts and parallels over the past year or so.  By the way, we need to get Miggy's bat going pronto, since he's on my fantasy team this year (in case anyone cares).  He homered Tuesday night, which is a good start.

I don't think I'll have much issue finding a home for this one, considering the hoards of Dodgers bloggers and collectors out there.

And, as far as the short prints, I had pretty meh results on that front.  According to the stated odds, I shoulda gotten six SPs, but only wound up with five.  I guess getting two chrome parallels threw a wrench into the equation.  I'll survive.

Needed the Bruce, Davis and Ellsbury cards.  So that's good.  Already had the Shields and didn't need two Jacobys.  That's not so good, but certainly not irreparable.  If any fellow Heritage collectors out there need either the Shields or Ellsbury (or both), let me know and maybe we can work out an SP exchange.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Eggs

Hope you all had a great Easter Sunday!  We enjoyed our first big holiday with the little guy, and he did great.  Lots of new people all up in his personal space, yet he didn't freak out once.  Pretty sensational for a baby not yet four months, I'd say.

The Easter Bunny took care of the the boys in our household.  Gabriel got a couple new packs in his basket: one Heritage and one Opening Day.  Including the Series 1 Topps pack I got him when the stuff hit the shelves, he now has three unopened packs to enjoy when he gets old enough.  I figure I'm going to get him a single pack of every 2014 Topps release.  That means I'll still be on the lookout for GQ, Ginter, Archives, Series 2, Update and Stadium Club (maybe?).

As for the big kid (me!), the Bunny got the same kind of cards as Gabe, but Daddy's were supersized.  I got three jumbo packs of Heritage and six packs of Opening Day -- my first taste of the latter.

My favorite card of the Opening Day lot was this Zack Wheeler "Future Stars."  It just so happens that Wheeler also took the ball for the Amazins on Easter Sunday and threw six pretty effective innings.  The Mets won it in 14, thus Zack didn't factor into the decision.

In addition to the packs, Mrs. K...err, the Easter Bunny also did a little COMC shopping.  One day, I hope to catch her in the act of doing this.  I'm always impressed to see what she comes up with, so I'd love to know how she goes about picking out her purchases.

Anyhow, the 2005 Jose Reyes Gallery bat relic you see at the top of the post was one of the cards nestled into my basket.  [Ed. Note: What, you don't get Easter baskets anymore?  Shame!]  A very awesome card, and one that I never knew existed.

The relic parade didn't stop with the Jose card, though, as Mrs. Bunny also snagged a pair of Clubhouse Collection cards from 2008 Heritage.  Both are great, but I'm especially partial to the hatless Pedro.  Too bad they couldn't include a piece of his blue mitt as the relic piece instead of the bland gray jersey swatch.

Growing up, I always got baseball cards in my Easter basket, and I think it's pretty cool that the tradition carries on even at this stage in my life.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Zistle Me This...

Boy oh boy, I've gone way too long since my last blog post.  Yes, it's true my spare time has been largely occupied by a little three-month-old person who know lives in our house, plus those oh-so-fun springtime chores that beckon from the backyard.

But, more than that, I've become recently hypnotized by Zistle.  More specifically, systematically entering my collection onto the site, creating custom collections, and so forth.  I've had a ball going through my cards and cross-checking them against the vast Zistle database.  I've even given my scanner copious amounts of electronic cardio work, adding images to the site.

So that's where I've been.  I don't know what's taken me so long to get on the Zistle train.  I know lots of fellow bloggers/collectors use the site, but I've never bothered to investigate previously.  From what I've seen thus far, it's the best free site out there in terms of organizing one's collection.  Easy to navigate and lots of convenient sorting options.  Heck, it beats the rot out of just keeping a bunch of different Google spreadsheets, which was what I had been doing.

Anyhow, I've decided to begin by tackling my Mets collection.  That means adding all the cards to a custom collection, fixing any database errors and adding card images I've scanned.  Sounds kinda boring on the surface, but I'm having fun with it.  In a past life, I was a heck of a data entry clerk, I guess.

I'm sure the novelty will wane in due time and I'll get back to my regular blogging routine.  After all, I've gotten a few really great trade packages over the past week or so.  Plus, I have the itch to rekindle my Four Topps feature, which I have probably done maybe once over the past three weeks.  Ugh.

In the meantime, my scanner is calling me.

Oh, and, by the way...

Gabriel is unimpressed by the Bunny.

Happy Easter, from the Kaz family!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On the Horizon: Frankenset Additions

Last Sunday provided me an opportunity to hit up the monthly card show at my local fire house.  After putting in a hearty 21-hour day of work and travel on Saturday, I nearly opted out of going.  But, of course, the allure of cheap cards is always much too strong for such a weak little man like myself.

I'm glad I went, because I found a whole lotta great additons for my horizontal card project.  Tentatively titled "Horizontal Heroes," my proposed frankenset will ultimately consist of 660 cards of nuthin' but landscape-oriented cards.  And, thanks to Sunday's show, I found over 30 cards to either fill an empty slot or overtake a less-enticing card that was already holding a spot.

The Cespedes Home Run Derby card from last year's Topps Update series will occupy slot No. 7 in the set.  I'm not a huge fan of the Derby these days, but I'm naturally partial to the blue and orange jersey tops and caps that the participants wore at Citi Field last July.

For a dime, a pretty good start.  Let's see what else I was able to find...


I was overjoyed to find a vendor that had a monster box of mostly late '90s and early '00s commons for just a nickel apiece.  That's where this Vinny "Mighty Mouse" Castilla card came from.  A masterpiece!


I originally picked up this card because I know my buddy Marcus of Backstop Cards collects Erstad.  But, after checking out his checklist, I discovered that he already had this one from '98 Donruss.  Lucky for me, I needed a good No. 67 for the set.


Not one of my favorite years of Fleer Ultra (2003), but this card was a must.  I can't say I recall the Devil Rays ever wearing a uniform of that color.  Yeesh!


Quite possibly the most stunning card of the lot.  I think 2004 Upper Deck is an underrated set, and this is surely one of its standout pieces.  Then again, stay tuned because later in the post I have a feeling we'll revisit '04 UD.  By the way, it would take a minor act of God to unseat this one from the set.


I think this card was idling in a Just Commons cart list that I made out several months ago.  I never got around to placing the order, but I guess I can remove this Richie Sexson card.  You think he was safe?


Another card from last year's Update.  This is a fine combination of a great photo and a great player.  I'm glad to have Yadi in the mix.


I didn't realize how many horizontal cards were featured in Bowman's 2010 offering, but I came across quite a few.  I guess Bowman no longer does the horizontal thing, right?  Too bad.  I love the photo angle of this card. Also, we can see the ball in the beginning of flight.


I'm trying not to put too many cards from the most recent releases into the frankenset mix.  But, hey, when you're good you're good.  These Cubbies throwbacks are sensational!


Remember what I said about 2010 Bowman?  This one, of course, is of the gold parallel variety.  And, whaddya know: a cameo from Robbie Cano!


A real beauty right here.  Just your typical Stadium Club ho-hum photographic masterpiece.  We were so spoiled, were we not?  They say TSC is coming back later this year, but I'm going to table my excitement until I see it with my own two eyes.


Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes can plop down in my frankenset any day.  I'll probably never forget his three homer performance on Opening Day '94 against Doc Gooden and my Mets.  1994 happened to be my final year of Little League, and Tuffy's name was regular dugout conversation fodder that spring.


Another great nickname here with Darren "Dutch" Daulton.  But, not at his familiar position behind the plate. Dutch was one of the many veterans for hire on Florida's 1997 championship club.


I think I might favor 2010 Topps over any of the other base card designs trotted out this decade.  It certainly has some of the best photography.  Can you spot the baseball?


I know I've said this before, but I feel like Pacific produced about six-zillion different sets between 1997 and 2000. In spite of that, I still don't have nearly enough Pacific cards for my liking.  Thus, Tomas Perez is a doubly nice pickup.


I can't say I've come across too many cards of ol' BK Kim through my many dime and nickel-box hunts over the years.  And, if I have, I'd never given any thought to purchasing one.  Another reason to love frankensets.


Has a player ever had a more important photo for their base card?  Josh Beckett was one of the big heroes of the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship club.  And this 2004 Upper Deck card captures him in the act of bringing the Fall Classic to a triumphant and stunning close for the Fish.  In all honesty, this is one of my favorite cards of all time.  I picked up a copy last summer for my Josh Beckett collection, and I jumped at the chance to get a spare copy for the HH project.


Another winner from 2002 Upper Deck.  This card reminds me of a Subway commercial I saw earlier this evening.  Though, unlike the TV ad, this card isn't annoying whatsoever.  Remember when baseball cards used to be cool like this?


I've got nothing but love for manager cards when it comes to this frankenset.  And 2009 Topps had some pretty good ones.


I believe I traded this card to Mr. Dime Boxes himself, Nick, last year.  That was before my whole horizontal card fetish took hold.  It's all good, though, since we both have a copy of this tremendous card now.  And, yup, Jeter cameo.  That's the fourth Yankee cameo in one post, in case you're keeping score at home.  Cano (twice), Posada and now The Captain.  Do with that what you will.


Not only is this the final card of the post, but this Jacoby Ellsbury card is slated to be the final card of the HH set.  Card no. 660 concludes the '09 Topps set, as well.  I like dugout shots, and this is one of the best ones out there.

One of these days I'll get around to posting my full Horiztonal Heroes progress in a tab up top.  Til then, I hope you enjoy these little glimpses into the construction of the set.