Friday, February 24, 2017

A High-Range Break for a Mid-Range Price

In the past few years, I've grown to greatly appreciate the sport of soccer.  No, it will never outweigh my love of baseball, but when you're a fan of a rebuilding team like the Atlanta Braves, you tend to become disinterested a bit more quickly during the season.

I have always (well, as long as I can remember) been a fan of the U.S. National Team.  Pretty much any American who saw that Landon Donovan goal live and witnessed the sheer pressure and build up to that moment had to turn into a USMNT fan of some form.  


My fandom continued on from that World Cup as I followed certain players into domestic leagues.  The English Premier League quickly became my favorite to watch and to follow, and I have since become a fan of Manchester City.  Yes, I admit, a bit of a bandwagon effect, but it was more latching on to a style of play that I appreciated... quick, decisive, and forward ball movement.  My favorite players to watch are attacking mids, a position at which City happens to be very deep, with the likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and even Yaya Toure to an extent.

I've attempted to pursue finding some decent soccer cards in the past.  I broke this box of Panini Donruss a while back and didn't really like it.  The lack of Premier League kits bothered me.  When I originally bought that box, I didn't know that Topps had exclusive rights to the Premier League.  Upon discovering that fact, I started searching for Topps products that I might enjoy.  I recently took a winger on two.


This is 2014 Topps Premier League Gold, a set that has been in many a store's bargain bins for quite some time.  It was the second iteration of a revamped, high-end Topps soccer set featuring solely the Barclays (at the time) Premier League.  I believe these boxes originally retailed well over the $200 mark, and I ended up picking this box up for just shy of $100 from a Blowout flash sale.


The box layout is certainly high-end style as you get 10 packs with each of the packs containing a hit.  It was certainly a fun rip as I don't get to dive into high-end product very often... you know, budget and all.


I can't say the standard relic design is all that interesting.  As seen from the two above, you get a pretty basic action shot with a background of wavy lines.  I suppose it's okay.  I do appreciate the variety of color in these relics, as I only got a single white/gray one out of the bunch of five.


Another thing that I thought was unique was the way Topps presented relic parallels in this set.  Instead of simply color coding the card or giving it a chrome varnish as is so often the case with modern parallels, they instead decided to make the relic bigger.  I like the idea of this and almost wish that Topps would try this type of thing more often in baseball sets.  The execution sucks here... as the card simply looks like its cut wrong, but I applaud the creative attempt.


Above is your standard base card, a set that checks in at 150 cards, though you only get about 30 from a box.  In general, I'd have to say that the base cards are a bit boring.  The lack of any background and/or grass makes me a bit sad.  Save the fancy background design work for your inserts.  I will say that I do enjoy the nameplate on these cards and like that Topps let the player pop out over it (see the Charlie Austin card below for an even better example).

The card backs are even more boring and actually a bit squinty... especially for all that wasted white space.


Inserts seem to be somewhat rare as I only pulled five in total.  This is certainly where I'm okay with Topps going "backroundless" and I think they did a great job with all three of these designs.


These captain cards especially make me smile as they seem to try and bring out a player's personality... I see you down there Wayne Rooney.


Obviously, we can't be Topps without colorful parallels.  Here's two that I pulled.  These are numbered out of 50 and 60 respectively.  I absolutely adored Charlie Austin while he was on QPR before their relegation.  He had actually been doing fairly well for Southampton this season and had a run of 6 goals in 10 games before dislocating his shoulder in Europa League play.  Also... the card is purple... so I instantly love it.


While I do love my autographs, the five in this box left me slightly disappointed.  I didn't realize until I later checked the auto list that the only Man City player even on it was Frank Lampard.  I knew what I was getting into with the sticker-graphs, but what I didn't realize was how little effort soccer players put into their signature.  These are mostly just scribbles.  At least Diego Costa's has a bit of a flourish he seems to intentionally put on there.

Side thought: I wonder if there is a correlation to the amount of people asking baseball players for signatures, and how well players sign their name.  Yes, I know there are plenty of bad baseball John Hancock's out there right now as well, but I don't think I've seen a halfway decent soccer auto yet.  Perhaps it simply sample size.


Though I can't stand his team, probably my favorite card from the box is this relic. Mesut Ozil is a genious and a freak of nature.  I appreciate owning a piece of his clothing.  

This 1-of-1 printing plate is of former QPR man and now Burnley man Joey Barton.  Probably going to put this one up on the secondary market as I can't stand how he plays.  He embarrassed himself last week in his conduct against Lincoln City and I was very happy to see the Imps pull that game out.

Overall, I'd probably pick up another box of this if I found at the under $100 price point again.  While I don't think you can expect much from the hits, the inserts and parallels are pretty cool (give me more purple)!


Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Pack of 'Something Else'

Everybody has been making a trip down to their local card store or big retail location to pick some brand new 2017 Topps Series 1.  I thought about doing it... briefly, and that's about as far as I've got.  I won't lie, I have put some low ball bids out there on a Braves team slot in a half case break, but that's me knowing I'll eventually want a couple copies of the Dansby rookie, and a case break seems like the most efficient way to do that.

So no, you will not see any brand new cards here.  Instead, I grabbed a single pack from my LCS on Tuesday.  2012 Panini Cooperstown.


Normally, I'd say I avoid Panini like the plague.  Yes, the missing logos do play a factor, but its more than just the logos for me.  I simply haven't seen a set from Panini of which I enjoy the design.
  
Donruss: mostly hideous.  
Prizm: way too much going on.  
USA sets: boring.  
Elite: suffers more than any other set from a lack of logos.  
Optic: just foily Donruss... so still mostly hideous.

I'm not going to touch the high end sets, but there's also three sets I haven't mentioned.  The first is Diamond Kings.  I honestly haven't held a Diamond Kings card in my hand yet.  Every time I see one on a blog, my first reaction is surprisingly a good one "ohh, that's kinda neat."  I think a lot of it has to do with the watercolor effect that reminds me a lot of 2009 Ginter.  My LCS actually has a hobby box at a pretty good price that I keep looking at, but every review of the product I've seen has been more negative than positive, which makes me very hesitant.

The other major set I haven't mentioned is Contenders, and that's because I actually very much like the design of this set.  My main problem is that I really don't enjoy the set contents.  I'm not very big into prospecting and don't really enjoy the college uniforms, so I simply don't buy any.  It's unfortunate, since I really do think Panini nailed this design.



The last set.  This one.  Cooperstown.  This was my first pack of it (from any year).  I suppose I enjoy it for what it is.

Positives:
  • Black and white or gray-scaled photos (I love this, and from what I can tell, it's throughout the entire set... the way it should be)
  • Very cool fonting.  The year up top on the two banners, the large red "Cooperstown," even the player name.  I like all the text.
  • Best card backs Panini has or probably will ever make. 
Negatives:
  • The framing makes for a small, and in many cases, oddly cropped photo.
  • No logos still make me cry in many photos.
  • This design seems to scream "add a team nameplate at the top or bottom"... but they can't do that because they're Panini.


Overall, I think the set is pretty good for what is available to Panini.  It's certainly no Donruss, and I'd probably be pretty happy to eventually pick up some more of these.


It also greatly helps your opinion when you happen to pull a numbered autograph in the first pack you open.  It's on card too!!!  A Panini miracle!  I'll admit... I had to look up who Pat Gillick was, and when I actually did, I didn't really feel bad about not knowing who Mr. Gillick was.

He the was the GM for the Blue Jays, O's, M's, and the hated '08 Phillies.  He's got 3 rings to his name over the years and was inducted into the HoF in 2011.  I appreciate the auto, but this one's up for trade if anyone happens to want it.

The rest of you... enjoy your 2017 Series 1.  :D

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Allen & Ginter Insert Overview Series #80

Set: 2011 Allen & Ginter Baseball Highlight Sketches
            Total Cards: 25
            Stated Odds: 1:15

Bubba’s Derived Odds: 1:6
           # of Hobby Boxes Needed to Obtain Set: 6.25

Favorite (Owned) Card:


Let's start with the good.  The goal of the design is fabulous; old-time font on cardboard made to look like parchment on a set that "looks back" at the past year.  I love it.  I chose the card above as my "favorite," not because I like the card all that much, but because it executes the design goal the best of any card in the set.

I see the above card, and I know what its referring to: the Twins leaving the Metrodome for Target Field. 

Notes and Comments:
Here's where everything else about the set starts falling apart.  If you'll note from that first Twins card, there is no nameplate on the card whatsoever.  Nothing to indicate what this card is about or whom it features except on the back.  I'm actually surprisingly okay with this as long as I can tell what the card is referencing.

Problem: very few of these cards succeed at this goal.


Take my friends Heyward, Pujols and Wright here.  Yes, they're probably instantly recognizable players, but all we have is a close-up with zero context.  These are supposed games in which these players respectively: hit a HR on his first swing, hit HR #400, and became the youngest Met to reach 1,000 hits.

Possibly my biggest frustration with this set is this card of Armando Galarraga.


Possibly one of the most memorable moments in baseball from the past decade (let alone 2010), and this is the photo that we get???  There is zero indication of that famous play with Jim Joyce.  There are so many great photos out there that could have been used...



I get that Topps has restricted photo access, but these all took me roughly 45 seconds to find... I'm sure Getty Images has something like one of the above.

Oh well.

One last thing I should mention.  This...

...it irks me greatly.  I don't enjoy twisting my head to read text.

I'm very critical with my baseball inserts.  Despite being an above average design, the flawed execution makes it the worst of the run of four Ginter sets from 2009-2012 that featured this type of insert.  So much opportunity wasted.

Arbitrary Rating (out of 100): 34
Click link above for complete up-to-date ratings

% of Set Completed: 100%

Missing Cards: NONE!!!

Extra Cards: BHS-3, BHS-4, BHS-5, BHS-7, BHS-8, BHS-10, BHS-13, BHS-14, BHS-15, BHS-16, BHS-17, BHS-18, BHS-19, BHS-20, BHS-21, BHS-22, BHS-24, BHS-25

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

DISNEY WORLD!

Vacations are great.  They let you escape from doldrums of work, weather, and people that you see far too often for your own good.  Roughly two weeks ago, I went on a vacation of my own to the "Happiest Place on Earth."  Since I get park admission for free and get extremely good discounts on food and lodging, I try to make my way down to Florida at least once a year (usually during the winter) and just relax.

This year, I went with my girlfriend, my best friend from high school, and his girlfriend.  Despite it being a bit more chilly than we expected down there, we had a blast staying at the Beach Club Resort.  The resort's main draw for us was having the ability to basically walk into the back entrance of Epcot as often as we'd like.

While not necessarily my favorite part of the trip, the one thing that really sticks out to me was playing mini-golf at a place called Fantasia Gardens.  I play a decent amount of real golf on a very casual level and this course enthralled me.  The course legitimately reminded me of an actual golf course complete with hazards including water, deep rough, and sand pits without the sand (so basically just giant pits).  Holes were also far longer than your 'typical' mini-golf course with the longest being around 110 feet.  You pretty much could not possibly get the ball near the hole on some of the longer holes and had no choice except to "lay up."  It was a blast to play and took well over an hour to play all 18 holes.

Image result for fantasia gardens mini golf

My loot from the trip included:

  • A Manchester City jersey from the England Soccer shop in Epcot
  • A few bags of Hi-Chew candy from the Japan shop in Epcot (think Starburst... but arguably better)
  • A Lion King mug featuring Timon & Pumba
  • Two hand-etched glasses from a shop in Germany (Epcot).  One was a small 8oz. juice glass featuring Olaf and the second was a large 14oz. glass featuring Tiger as well as my nickname "Bubba" etched into it.
  • A cast-member ornament from 2016
  • A Magic Band with a few of those attachments that go onto the band and make it look more "magical"
We had a blast and I got to experience a whole host of new restaurants, my favorite of which was the Yachtsman Steakhouse.  It was right next to where we were staying for the week; our waiter was upbeat, and the steaks were phenomenal.

So that's where I've been and it took me a while to catch up on all of your blogs, but I've finally done it and can get back to posting myself!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Covering all the Bases: SP's, Completed Sets, and Frankensets

Night Owl recently sent me a stack of cards neatly packed inside of a bubble mailer.  The vast majority of the cards were needs from 2016 Heritage which I am foolishly attempting to complete this year.  I honestly don't know how he ended up with most of these cards, as I haven't seen this set featured all that much on his blog.  I also don't think he's trying to collect it himself either.


Whatever the case may be, I received a healthy stack of regular base cards that I needed plus these five pictured short prints.  That's a big deal for these obnoxiously seeded cards.

Heritage has somewhat taken a back seat to most of my other collecting goals recently, and I'm mostly okay with that.  I'm probably at the point where buying any more of it would, more likely than not, yield no new cards to my goal.


I think part of the reason for me ignoring the set is because I've become a bit bored of it.  I started collecting it because I really enjoyed the design, but looking at more and more of the cards makes me realize how repetitive close-ups can get.  That Odorizzi especially leaves something to be desired... no arms, no background, no real sense of playing baseball.


This was probably my favorite of the Heritage cards I received.  I really don't mind the posed shots when the player is able to "act" well like Betances seems to be able to do.  He really looks as if he's trying to hold a runner on at first... and perhaps he really is, because this shot looks to almost assuredly be a photo-shopped or green-screened background.


On to more entertaining cards (at least for me)!  Night Owl sent me the last mini I needed to complete this year's Ferocious Felines insert set.  Greg is good at doing this.  The last time he sent me cards he was able to complete my Birds of Prey insert set.  Apparently he likes giving away his animal minis.

Lastly, Greg also included three black bordered Ginter minis along with a note: "Do any of these minis find their way into your frankenset?"  He's referring to my (somewhat) recent post in which I decided to start a frankenset of black-bordered minis.

Alright Night Owl, I'll humor you.  We'll go diving into why these may or may not make the cut. 


2016 card #191: Anthony Anderson

I'll say right off the bat that this card doesn't have a chance.  While I appreciate the inclusion of actors far more than I do all the comedians in the past two years, this particular actor I haven't watched (almost at all).  Black-ish, Barbershop, all "his" TV-shows... never seen any of them.  Apparently he was in Transformers which I did see a long time ago (crappy movie), but I don't remember him being in it.  The only movie I do recall seeing him in was one of my all time favorites, The Departed.  He played a beat-cop and didn't get much screen time, so that hardly warrants a spot in a frankenset.

The card slated to occupy slot #191 is 2010 Justin Morneau.


2011 card #56: Scott Kazmir

This one was simple too.  Kazmir simply gets outclassed by the competition in this slot.  We've got Whitey Ford, Jason Heyward, Apollo Creed, Carlos Correa all being card #56 over various years.  Currently in the binder (because I have it) is the 2014 Jason Heyward, but that can probably be upgraded too.


2014 card #318: Jason Kipnis

Winner!!!  This mini slots right in to the frankenset.  The only other #318 I owned was 2015 David Price which admittedly would have been a tough choice, but I also plan on using Price elsewhere in a different slot.

Thanks for the awesome package Night Owl!  You really did cover all the bases.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Drift of 'Danke' Dockets

Okay... maybe I tried a little too hard with that title, but that's hardly the point.  What is important is two of these great 'thank you' packages I recently received.  Both of the below packages came after my mass mailings of 2016 Ginter X (I still have more if anybody happens to still be looking for some).  Both of these fine gentlemen took a look at my wantlist and started crossing numbers off for me.  Best feeling ever.


The first of these wonderful packages came from ARPSmith's Sportscard Obsession, who still seems to have a good smattering of leftover cardboard from the last two years.  Those two minis brought me down to 14 remaining to complete the 2014 regular back mini set!


...and this one 'completed' my Little Lions set.  Not a very cute last card to cross off the list.  I must admit that I'm slightly disappointed in it.  Also, I say 'completed' because I still don't have card number 16 from this set in my hands.  There's a bit of a story that goes along with that, but its for a different post.


As a set collector, I tend to fall into a trap of thinking of cards as numbers, especially when there's still quite a bit of the set I still need. "Oh, you have that base card #65 I need!  Send it my way!"  It's not until I'm only a couple cards away from completion that I actually go look to see which subjects I'm missing.  It makes me appreciate cards like this Joc Pederson RC all the more.  This card was simply 2015 Topps Chrome card number 129 sitting on my wantlist.

Now, thanks to ARPSmith and the fine gentleman below, my list is down to four cards:

Topps Chrome
Base
46, 112, 177, 183

Here, I'll look them up now.  We've got James McCann, Kris Bryant, Steven Moya, and Jacob deGrom.  Whelp... three out of four of those should be super easy pickups.  I get the feeling #112 is going to be on my wantlist for quite some time though.


Then again, if people keep sending me awesome cards like this Addison Russell, maybe I shouldn't be too worried.  Dang, did 2015 have a ton of 'great' RC's or what?


Oh, no big deal.  Just another awesome Addison Russell card.  During a time in which Cubs bloggers are rampant, Cubs cards are super hot, and the Cubs won the World Series, ARPSmith managed to get these to me.  Highly appreciated.  Thank you!


Package #2 came courtesy of Ryan from "O" No!!! Another Orioles Blog.  He also hit me up with a package full of Chromey goodness including the above two 2015 needs.


Ryan hit a bunch of my Bowman needs including these two highlights.  He also knocked my 2013 Bowman needs down to one card in each subset (which I find very odd).  Lets take a look at those three missing cards:

Base
127 (Jake Odorizzi)

Prospects
BP34 (Jeremy Moore)

Chrome Prospects
BCP80 (Alex Meyer)

Okay! No big names here. Surely this shouldn't be too hard to finish!


Lastly, Ryan sent me a single card from 2006 Bowman.  That's Jonathan Waltenbury if you can't read it.  Clearly, he didn't make it.  Doesn't matter.  I still needed the card!  Thanks Ryan!