Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Delightful Deception

You ever been rooting through a dime box and come across a card you already have but can't turn down another copy of it because ya just love it so much?

That's the case with Ken Griffey, Jr.'s 1990 Topps card.  In all it's Rookie Cup glory, this card stands above all other cards in the Kid's regular Topps cards in my opinion.  Even his '89 Topps Traded card, which is one of the greatest cards of all time.  (Though, if you catch me on the right day, I'll flip-flop 'em.  Hey, they're both great, what can I say?)

But, something about the combination of elements on this card.  The totally '90s border; the deep orange of the team name and player name plate; the fresh-faced Griffey; the bat-over-shoulder pose; and of course the Cup. It's as close to cardboard perfection as you can concoct.  I'd buy this card for a dime 24/7.

But, the best part of this particular card?

It's one that I didn't already own after all...

English and French text.  Slightly discolored card stock.  It all equates to... O-Pee-Chee!!

I don't think I have any other 1990 OPC cards in my collection, so I was caught off-guard that the front of the card had a "Topps" logo and not the O-Pee-Chee designation.  And, I didn't even realize what I had on my hands until several days after the show at which I grabbed this card.  I was in the process of sorting and scanning and I did a double-take on the back.  Boy, was I thrilled!

Have any of you had an experience like this?


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Donruss '16: The Mets

I've been catching quite a few 2016 Donruss posts around the blogs, and mostly the words have been kind.  I'm no paid employee or formal endorser of Panini, but I look at them as a somewhat viable alternative to Topps. And, as a free market advocate, I think options and/or competition are good things.

I haven't purchased any retail packs or blasters -- though I am seriously considering an investment in the latter -- but I was able to scoop up all eight Mets base cards for a dime apiece when I was at a card show a couple of weekends ago.

The design, like a year ago, has that old-time Donruss vibe about it, which I appreciate quite a bit.  I think I favor this year's layout over its 2015 counterpart.  Both are very good, however.

Most of the photos used for the base cards are far from imaginative or creative.  Just meat 'n potatoes type of stuff, which I guess is O.K.  It's better than having an overload of gimmicky photos, which is the direction Topps has been leaning towards in recent years.

The lack of logos and team names don't bother me so much, though, I still don't get why Panini can't at least use the exact colors for the uniforms.  Not even a hint of orange on the numbers or letters of the jersey.  Are they licensed to use just one color for every team?

Certainly, the Panini folks have to be creative in the ways in which they go about choosing their photos, and that largely leads to the blandness of the final product.  You can't really have front-on photos since the team name and logos are no-nos.  Thus, we have many side profile images.  The one of Thor is pretty darn good, though.

But then the feeling of deja vu eventually sinks in with the same or similar action photos.

Aside from the David Wright card in the lead-off spot, this might be my favorite of all the cards in this post.  The overall presentation, from the photo selection to the centering to the framing, is just so nicely done.  For those resistant to non-licensed cards:  Do you not see anything redeeming here?

Perhaps the strangest inclusion is this Nolan Ryan card.  Aside from the fact that it appears as if he's pitching for the Yankees (navy blue, anyone?), it's curious that Panini opted for Ryan as the lone retired Met in the checklist.  I'm always glad when the card companies choose to do this because it means another card of the Express for my Mets collection.  But, when you've got Seaver, Piazza, Gooden, Carter, etc. at the ready, you'd think they would go in a more obvious direction.  Then again, I would've probably complained about that, too.

Now that I've got all the base Mets, the only reason I'd sink a 20-spot into a blaster of '16 Donruss is to try my hand at some of the cool inserts that accompany this product.  Though, it might just make more sense to track down some of these via eBay or a SportLots type of site.

In any event, I give 2016 Donruss a positive rating.  Given the limitations, a much worse product could have been offered up quite easily with little objection or remak from passers-by.  But, in fact, I think the quality here is undeniable, and that's a credit to the Panini folks.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rookie Cup: 1990 Style!

I consider myself both lucky and cursed to have a sports card show occur not even 10 minutes away from my home each month.

Sure it's a wonderful source of great, cheaply-priced cards that otherwise I'd not have regular access to.  Then again, the allure is too tough to ignore and that means bye-bye moola.  Then again, if I end up spending 25 bucks at these shows, that's a lot.  And, I mean, that's slightly more than a blaster, the contents of which I have zero say over.

So I guess it's really not a bad thing whatsoever.  More of a first-world problem kind of thing, I suppose.

I'll just shut up and talk about the cards now.

One of my favorite regular vendors at these shows is a nice fellow named Tom who always pulls a Mets team set for me of whatever the newest product is.  He'll do the same for Buffalo Bills cards, as well.  I've struck up a relationship with the guy in a way that he refuses to take my money for the team sets.  But, I end up buying a few bucks worth of stuff from his table just to pay it back.

In my most recent visit, I found a nice stash of last year's Archives cards in one of his monster boxes of dime cards.  Mixed in with all the base cards were copious amounts of inserts.  That included my favorite of the '15 Archives inserts: the 1990-style All-Star Rookies.

If you've visited my blog even for a little while, you might know that the '90 Topps set is one of the four cornerstone sets of my youth (joining the '87, '88 and '89 sets).  Thus, any latter-day cards paying homage to that year get high marks from me.

In my dig, I was able to unearth 10 of the 20 cards from this Rookie Cup insert set, including the lone Met from the checklist, Dilson Herrera.  Not too shabby!  Heck, if I had just found the Dilson, that woulda been a roaring success.

Here are the other nine I was able to track down:

No super-big names here, but it didn't take away from the excitement of the discovery at all.  Back when these came out, I seriously kicked around the idea of swiping a complete set off eBay.  That would have set me back probably 20 bucks.  Not sure if I'm still going to try to hunt down the rest, but nailing down half the set for a buck is pretty nifty.  Heck, to just get the Dilson card off eBay would cost a dollar (plus shipping), and I've nearly pulled the trigger on that several times.

The only other cards from this insert set that I'd probably like to own are: Joc Pederson, Rusney Castillo and Maikel Franco.  I wasn't surprised that the Franco was M.I.A., as Phillies cards in this neck of the woods don't last very long in dime boxes.  Especially of a young star like him.

Anyhow, file this one as an unexpected joy.  And not the only bit of Archives luck I had at this month's show. I'll save that for a future post, though.

For those who celebrate, from my family to yours, have a happy and blessed Easter!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Heritage '16

Yes, I completely understand that the content of this post is way past relevancy since Heritage has been out for nearly a month now and everyone and his sister has already had their say.

But, it is my favorite of the Topps brands, so I would feel somewhat inadequate if I didn't flick my two-cents into the collection jar...past due or not.

About a week to 10 days after Heritage hit shelves across the country, the stuff finally started appearing at the usual retail giants in northern Delaware.  I'm not sure why we're always late to the party here in the First State, but that's the reality of it.

So I opted for a blaster as a means to procure my first taste of '16 Heritage.  By standards, it was a pretty unassuming assortment of cards with nothing of extreme note contained therein.  But, it's Heritage, so even the base cards are an 'event.'

My first Mets card from the brand is as you see it above; the ageless one himself, Bartolo Colon.  In my estimation, it's the perfect depiction of the roly-poly right-hander.  Nothing seems to faze the guy, and even in the tightest of quarters he can be found flipping the ball up and down at the back of the hill like some kid leaning against the wall at recess.

A great dual rookie card here, featuring a couple of lads who should be big contributors in the NL East for many years to come.  At least fans of both clubs hope that's the case.  Conforto stands to be the close-to-everyday left-fielder for New York, while Nola projects to be at the front of the rotation in Philly in the near future.

By the way, as others have already mentioned in their write-ups (and quite rightly and eloquently), the 'TM' or 'R' next to the team names or leagues is very, very, very small.  Which is how it should be, but not how it has been the past few years.  A most welcome change this year!

I've gotta say, I'm not to worked up about the clarity (or lack thereof) of the pictures on the cards.  Are they a little grainy?  Sure, but not enough to turn me off to the overall presentation.  On the other hand, I know why it ticks off the purists and I can appreciate the unrest.

By the way, great sig, Ichiro!

There are many up-close 'headshots' in this set, as was the case from the vintage '67 cards.  If this is a gripe you maintin, maybe Heritage isn't the brand for you?  You can find plenty of photos in Flagship of guys doing cartwheels across home plate or dousing one another with Hershey's syrup.  If that's your thing.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how the regular ol' base cards came off.  As usual, I'll try to hunt down as much of the set as humanly possible.  In regards to Heritage, getting the first 425 cards on the checklist usually isn't an issue.  It's those final 75 cards--aka the short prints--that'll send us all to an early grave.

My blaster yielded me three of those SP things, in case you were wondering.

I think CarGo is a short print every year in Heritage.  Or is that just me?  Nope, not just me:  This is the fifth-straight year he's been in the SP section.

This marks the second time Betances has been a short print in a Heritage set.  His rookie from the '12 set was also an SP.

Jungmann made his Heritage debut in last year's High Number issue, so this is a first for him among the land of the short prints.

This threesome won't qualify for the most exotic or satisfying grouping of SPs that one could hope for out of his or her blaster box.  But, I've never been lucky when it comes to that sort of thing.  I guess I should be thankful I got three out of eight packs.

Anyhow, I'll give 2016 Heritage a thumbs up.  It doesn't hurt that the model for this edition was one of the best-looking sets of the '60s, or any vintage decade perhaps.  But, in terms of execution, I'm good with it.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

One Met at a Time, Vol. 9

[Ed. Note: I recently surpassed the 8k mark in my Mets collection, so I thought it would be a fun idea to start picking through the cards one-by-one and presenting them here.  So, that's what this is.  Enjoy!]

Player Name:  John Stearns

Card Info:  1976 Topps, #633

Coming over from the Phillies in the Tug McGraw trade, John Stearns played 10 of his 11 big league years (1975-84) as a Met.  Those were mostly lean years for the club, and Stearns was one of the lone bright spots along the way.  He made four All-Star teams and earned the nickname "Bad Dude" for his rough and tumble mentality behind the dish.  His '76 Topps card --replete with hairy, manly arms--set me back a dime at a recent card show.

At the time of this post, I have 15 John Stearns cards in my Mets collection.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No Jinxes Here

So, who did I spy on the cover of one of Sports Illustrated's regional Baseball Preview covers today?  None other than the Joe Willie Namath of 21st century New York baseball himself, Matt Harvey.

Flanked by fellow starter Jacob deGrom and fireman Jeurys Familia, Harvey and his Mets were tabbed by SI to win the NL East in 2016.  But, it's not a total jinx, don't worry: the Cubs were the publication's pick for the pennant.

While I am normally something of a superstitious person, I don't think my blog contributes to such hocus pocus. Thus, I can proudly display the 2015 Heritage SP of Mr. Harvey at the top of this post.  After all, it's a short print that was desperately from my '15 Heritage set.

This terrific card came my way thanks to long-time blogging buddy Shane at Shoebox Legends.  It's the centerpiece of another brilliant PWE that my Rhode Island compatriot meticulously crafted.

Here's another Harvey, this one from Panini's 2013 Hometown Heroes release.  Kind of a Heritage or Fleer Tradition feel to these.  Yes, no logo or team name, but I don't think it harms these much at all.

Here's the Straw from the same set.  As I've stated before, if you view these in the same way as the beloved food-issue oddballs we had in the '80s, you can find a lot of room in your heart for Panini's baseball products.

My third Mets card from the colorful 2014 Finest set.  A quick look on Zistle informs me that there were four Mets in the base set that year.  The M.I.A. card in my collection is Wilmer Flores, so I'll have to be on the lookout for that one.

A pair from last year's Topps Chrome, including a Dilson Herrera rookie.  Dilson, who has always been a good sticker in the minors, recently slugged a tie-breaking homer to lift Columbia over Panama and into the 2017 World Baseball Classic.  Talk about a thrill!

I don't think you can tell from the scan (probably not), but this is a rainbow foil parallel of Travis d'Arnaud's 2016 Topps base card.  Maybe it's just me, but these aren't exactly the easiest to spot in person, either.  Then again, I've never been on the A-team in terms of eyesight.  Boy, how miss the gold ol' days of red and blue parallels!

We round out the baseball portion of the group with this stunning "sky blue refractor" of prospect Desmond Lindsay.  The Mets, who forfeited their first-rounder when they signed Michael Cuddyer, nabbed Lindsay in the second round of the 2015 draft.  He wasn't necessarily projected to be an early round pick, but Mets brass was enamored with the toolsy Florida high school product and rolled the dice.  In this pro debut, Lindsay batted .263 in 35 games combined in the Gulf Coast League and the NY-Penn League.

I was pretty stoked to find this card among the selections of this latest Shoebox PWE, as I had no idea that Lindsay had any cards.  I guess I shoulda assumed Bowman was already on the case, eh?

Shall we finish with hockey?  Yes, we shall!  Who knows if the Blueshirts would have won the ECF in 2014 had Habs goalie Carey Price not gotten hurt in Game 1.  Nonetheless, it was a thrill for this Rangers fan to see the club make it to the Cup Finals 20 years after the historic '94 season.  The outcome wasn't the same, but what a year it was!

Thanks for the fresh cards, Shane!  A return volley is making its way up I-95 as we speak...


Sunday, March 20, 2016

One Met at a Time, Vol. 8

[Ed. Note: Since I'm closing in on 8k cards in my Mets collection, I thought it would be a fun idea to start picking through 'em all one-by-one and presenting them here.  So, that's what this is.  Enjoy!]

Player Name:  Nolan Ryan

Card Info:  1992 Classic Best, #1

I picked this one up at the card show I attended last month.  Another great dime-box find among a sea of monster boxes.  The pose, the stirrups, the bleachers in the background -- there's a lot to like here.  Oh, and it's Nolan Ryan in a minor league uni.

At the time of this post, I have 37 Nolan Ryan cards in my Mets collection.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Some Cards that Mom Missed (A Trade with JayP)

I'd say it was about a month ago that I shipped off a stack of spare 2015 Heritage base cards as well as some Diamondbacks odds-and-ends to Jared (aka JayP) of the CMMDTO blog (aka Cards Your Mother Didn't Throw Out).

If nothing else, I was just looking to unload some extras and make room for new stuff.  Plus, I had a couple of neat D-backs relic cards that I thought should have a decent home with a Snakes collector.  On both of those points, mission accomplished!

In return, Jared was nice enough to send me  not one, but two PWEs jammed with cards.  It certainly was an unnecessary gesture, but I'll never say no to new Mets cards!

Included in the second of the PWEs which recently arrived was the stellar David Wright blue refractor you see in the lead-off spot.  I don't have to tell you this, but this card is much more stunning in person--as all refractors are. Especially the colored refractors.  And specifically blue refractors when they're paired wit a blue and orange-clad Mets player.  Also, as an FYI, this one is numbered to 250.  Nice!

Here are some more highlights from the duo of PWEs from JayP...

Since we led off with the Mets' captain, we might as well follow through with a few more from Mr. Wright, including his Topps Chrome base card from last year.  I think '15 Chrome was one of the best-looking chrome sets Topps has cooked up in a long time.  I can't even imagine what the '16 cards will look like in Chrome fashion.

2014 Finest was both a fresh look as well as a nod towards the roots of the brand.  A pretty good combination if you ask me.

I defend Panini's many baseball offering quite frequently on this blog.  Some are not very good I admit, but there are some which are worthy of praise.  Unfortunately, 2012 Prizm isn't one of those I'd hang on the refrigerator. The MLBPA logo in the top right corner is somewhat tacky.

On the other hand, this is a home run for Panini.  This happens to be one of my favorite cards from the 2015 collecting season.  The reborn Donruss brand offers a wink to the past here, and they've done a similar thing in this year's set, which I'm more than pleased about.  This is actually a card I picked up via COMC last year, but I'm happy to have an additional copy.

Moving on from DW...

A Bowman rookie of Ruben Tejada...

...and the shortstop's nifty '15 flagship issue.  Never been a huge fan of the camo alternate jerseys, but Tejada actually wears it well on this card.  By the way, it's worth noting that Mr. Tejada--the man who Chase Utley destroyed in the last year's NLDS--was released by the club earlier this week.  For me, at least, it was an unexpected move.  I wish Ruben well at his future address.

Another from last year's Chrome set.  More camo, too!

This post is taking on a somewhat stream-of-consciousness vibe, so let's play it out.  From the D'Arnaud Rookie Cup in '15 to the 2016 version for left fielder Michael Conforto.  Not a bad-looking card at all.  It's quite good, actually.  It was also the final card I was missing from the Series 1 team set, so good job, JayP!

Okay, enough of this 'new' stuff.  Let's take it back nearly two decades for these next two.

Boy, I just made myself feel very old with that last comment.  Are these 1998 Finest cards really 18 years old?! Gosh, they're old enough to vote!

Hey, whatever their age, these cards have held up very nicely over their time on the planet.  From an aesthetics sense, that is.  Even with the whole "protective coating" thing going on.

And we finish up with what may have been the most unique card of the bunch.  Not so much for the design elements--never been a huge flag-waver for the Elite series for numerous reasons.  But, the photo of then-rookie Kaz Matsui is, well, interesting to say the least.  For that, I really, really dig it!  I can't conjure up too many sports cards depicting a guy in swishy pants, sneakers, a long-sleeve workout shirt and a knit cap.  But, here it is!  Donruss gets a gold star for going outside the box!

JayP, thanks for the great additions to my Mets collection.  Certainly, I'm glad Mom decided not to discard these!