Night Owl recently sent me a package that contained a smattering of different cards that checked a whole bunch of boxes off in my collection. He hit some wants lists, threw a couple Julio's at me, and even sent me a couple of Braves pitchers. I've been sitting on the below scans for a week or so trying to be a bit creative with them... to no avail. I decided to take these an entirely different direction.
Friday, I put up my first of many contests based around the upcoming Allen & Ginter release. The contest involves joining a fantasy World Cup pick-em. If you're at all interested in the upcoming World Cup, you should join! It'll be a fun way to follow it even if you don't win. Plus! FREE CARDS!
If you're looking to join, here's the link and code required to join Bubba's Bangin' World Cup Pick'em! Note that this shindig starts tomorrow, so you should hop in ASAP!
Here, I'll even help you out! Five-Thirty-Eight just released their World Cup Projections complete with a fun interactive tool.
Along those lines, I decided to relate each of these ten cards that Greg sent me to a World Cup team. Hooray for shameless self-promotion!
Born 8/13/1997, Kolby is the youngest of the players Greg sent me. France just happens to have one of the youngest rosters at this year's World Cup (second only to Nigeria). Their youngsters are lead by phenom Kylian Mbappe, yet looked quite questionable in a friendly against the USA last week.
Did you know Aaron Harang was 6'7"? That seems incredible to me. In any case, Serbia just happens to have the tallest average squad at this year's World Cup coming in at 73.5" or 6' 1.5" which is quite tall for a soccer player. In fact, former captain, and one of the more iconic Serbians, Branislav Ivanovic measures in at 6'1" which means there must be a bunch of other Serbians much taller.
This Ginter mini was a set need for me and also happened to be the oldest person contained in Night Owl's package. The oldest squad designation belong to Costa Rica (just shy of 30 years). They sure look like a bunch of old farts up there.
The hidden gem of this package was definitely this 2016 Heritage short print. Scherzer has always seemed like a hidden gem of a player as well. He's been such a great pitcher for so long (he'll be going to his 6th consecutive All-Star game this year), but his team hasn't won anything.
James Rodriguez (and Colombia in general) is probably the best example of this type of hidden gem in the soccer world. If you don't follow soccer, this guy is probably the best player you've never heard of.
Meanwhile, Shae Simmons and Peru own the honor of being the shortest player and team on this post. Shae is 5'11" while Peru averages 69.9" or 5' 9.9". I'm sure that little girl really helps keeps the average height of this team nice and low.
I found it somewhat surprising that Greg somehow did not send me a single player that has a World Series ring. Obviously, the Braves haven't won in awhile, but other stars like Trout, Votto and Mattingly (quite famously in fact) have never seen a ring. Soria has the interesting distinction of having started his career in Kansas City, left before they won the World Series in 2015 and then came back to KC the year after. Feels bad man.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are the current holder of the UEFA EURO (probably the biggest international soccer competition outside of the World Cup, and they're looking to duplicate that performance this year.
This comparison was simple. The best baseball player and the best soccer player. The end. Good luck Argentina.
My favorite card of the package award goes to this new deckle-edge insert from 2018 Heritage featuring Joey Votto. I loved that Topps attempted to bring these back and I feel like they did a half decent job at it.
Meanwhile, Neymar and Brazil enter the 2018 FIFA World Cup as the odds-on favorite to win it all. I certainly hope they don't pull it off as I don't think it would make for a very entertaining World Cup, but oh well.
The last two cards of the package feature what was my favorite player over the last few years (though he's slowly being eclipsed by Sean Newcomb). Xherdan Shaqiri won over my heart with his play in the World Cup in 2014 and his absolutely stunning goal in the 2016 UEFA EURO. It's easy for me to follow him as well as he plays for Stoke City in the Premier League.
Finally, my favorite current soccer player is easily Manchester City star and Belgian international Kevin de Bruyne. Both Belgium and Switzerland have become my two de-facto favorite squads for this competition since the USA was incapable of qualifying. Belgium as a whole is also absolutely loaded and can easily challenge all the top teams on any given day. It should be interesting to see which side of Belgium we see in Russia this year.
Thanks so much for the cards Greg and I hope everyone enjoys the World Cup!