Grand Cards: August 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Forbes Tries (and fails) to Explain Economics Through Baseball Cards

An interesting article today on entitled "Baseball Cards and the Current Economy" in which our author tries to explain how the baseball card industry can explain various bits of the real economy. (h/t to The Sports Economist) The problem is that in so doing, he reveals a shocking lack of insight on how the baseball industry currently operates and even a false impression of things that went on during the 80s/90s heyday.

To wit:
Inflation is the process by which monetary authorities devalue their currency, and as Zimbabwe is teaching us now, one way to devalue is to overissue the currency in question. When too much money is printed, it loses value, and inflation is the result. Much the same has occurred with baseball cards. With a growing number of companies issuing baseball cards, there's nothing particularly unique or rare about them. Lacking the rarity that attached itself to Wagner's card in the '30s, and Griffey's rookie card today, their value has plummeted.

Were baseball cards, at the core, victims of the inflation that accompanied overproduction? Why yes, yes the were. Yet the use of present tense in the article is rather disturbing, seeing how only two companies (essentially) have produced baseball cards since 2007 and that only one will be operating with MLB's blessing in 2010. And let's not forget that little tidbit about the rarity of Griffey's rookie card today. Oh John, that card is not rare. Nothing from the early 90's is rare. And although the Griffey card retains value because it is iconic and is the only true Griffey Rookie, it isn't worth anything close to what it was 15 years ago.

The article also, somewhat confusingly, makes comments about anti-trust law and competitive markets:
Politicians frequently wring their hands over businesses being too profitable on the backs of allegedly hapless consumers, but their worries are overdone. As evidenced by the market for baseball cards, new entrants did as they've always done when it comes to lowering profit margins in pursuit of, yes, profits.

Anti-trust law is of course based on the idea that some companies can grow too large, and in doing so, might be able to exert economy-sapping control over markets for certain goods. Anti-trust lawyers have built careers around placing roadblocks in front of companies they deem too powerful, but the baseball-card industry reveals how difficult it is to predict the future of anything.

Uh, ok? So, in the late 80's, baseball cards enjoyed a competitive market. With extremely high profits and relatively low barriers to entry, Topps (the former monopolist) was joined by Fleer, Score, Upper Deck, Donruss, ad infinitum until Marginal Revenue equaled Marginal Cost and profits disappeared. Mind if I throw a Relevancy FAIL on this one? The market is a regulated monopoly once again--Topps is the sole producer after MLB determined that a competitive market essentially doomed the industry (they're right, mind you--as marginal producers systematically fell by the wayside as they became unprofitable), yet the article, which specifically mentions monopolies and anti-trust, makes no mention of this impact whatsoever. What gives?

All in all, this little piece does not really have anything to do with anything and uses general information about the downfall of the baseball card industry to make unnecessary comparisons to economic concepts. In fact, the only valuable bit of insight comes from the Sports Economist post that led me to the Forbes article:

Tamny points out that the card market was undone by entry. What were once collectibles became commonplace. No matter what marketing spin the card companies could put on a Derek Jeter or Greg Jefferies card, ultimately the flood of cards undermined the essential element -- scarcity -- on which a market for collectibles is based. The card market could come back in a couple of decades, but I'm not betting on it

Bingo! Cards lost their value because they became commoditized. Everybody thought that their cards would be worth something so they saved everything and the companies produced a ton and we were all left with piles and piles of cards, which is a problem considering that the only historical value of cards has been their scarcity as a collectible.

In the market today we are now 10 years+ removed from the collapse of the industry, and I think we all realize that things are never going to be the way they once were (for better or worse). Certainly though, there have been enough fundamental changes in the market (number of producers, eBay as a substitute for card shops, catering to the cards as memorabilia crowd, price discrimination via product differentiation, competitive market vs duopoly/monopoly etc.) to make a number of extremely interesting economic arguments that can draw relevant parallels to the economy as a whole.

Instead, we get an article that states that "the rise and ultimate decline of the baseball-card market serves as a micro example of what happens in the economy every day," while utterly failing to show us how.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #7, 8, 9 The Replaced and The Replacements

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

We start with our #9 Mustache, who is yet another player who wasn't actually on the team, but has a place in the '84 team set. This time though, he is actually a valuable piece of the puzzle.

You see, this guy:
1984 Topps #119 Johnny Wockenfuss

Was dealt in a package that included our number eight:
1984 Topps Traded #11T Dave Bergman

I say a net negative on the Mustache trade there--Wockenfuss really had one going. Although I will say, the vintage 80's glasses on the Bergman action shot certainly helps his cause. Oh, that and the fact that and he hit a solid .273 as the team's first baseman for the year. However, I'm not sure that the Tigers were convinced that they hadn't lost more they bargained for when Wockenfuss and his mustache left town.

Thank goodness for free agency:
1984 Topps Traded #59T Ruppert Jones

Ruppert, our #7 on the list, comes in to add that needed mustache support of the bench. .284, 12 HR, 37 RBIs and a full, traditional stache that accounted for at least two of those bombs. All in all, I say losing Wockenfuss and Glenn Wilson in a trade is well worth it when you get Dave Bergman and can get Mr. Jones off the free agent market. Oh, and let's not forget the other member of that key 1984 trade deal--where will Guillermo end up on the list? We'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #10 Rick Leach

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

I know, I missed yesterday's mustache post. I'm sorry. Expect another one later this evening to make up for it. In the meantime, we can all rejoice as we break into the Top 10. And what a better way to do so than with this guy:


That also happens to be this guy:
1984 Topps #427 Rick Leach

Sadly, Ricky Leach is another in the line of great Mustaches that left the Tigers prior to the 1984 season, in this case via a release. Bummer. I'm getting a little down going through this 1984 team set, only to find that a bunch of the guys weren't even on the team that year. I guess that is the way it goes though. How many cards of Gary Sheffield have I had to endure this year, or guys like Dontrelle or Bonderman who've barely played at all. Sigh.

Still, although he wasn't on the 1984 team, the spectre of Leach as a great (ok, good) UM Mustache certainly must have had some impact on the squad. I refuse to believe that it was the jettisoning of mustachioed players from the team prior to 1984 was the cause for success. Rather, perhaps there is a critical mass of mustaches that leads to peak performance, but that once that level is reached, there is a worry of oversaturation. Clearly, with the addition of some players during the 1984 season (one player in particular) it is hard to say that the Mustache had no role in that season's success. Perhaps we just need to give up some of the lesser mustaches for the greater good.

Or, I should have done my research ahead of time instead of just looking at the cards and ranking players by how I saw them and put the guys who weren't actually on the team at the bottom of the list. Oh well. I was heading off to vacation at the time, and I do know that the remainder of the list is, for the most part, chock full of impact players with impact staches.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Strike Up The Printing Press

This AP Photo from yesterday's game is a baseball card worthy shot if I've ever seen one. The beauty here is the uncertainty. Will it go over? Will it be robbed? You could stare at the card forever, analyzing angles and vertical leaps and never know.

Or you could check the box score. It was a Home Run. Still a great shot though.

Oh Good Lord

I'll have more on this at some point in the next week or so, as I really want to talk about how shockingly underappreciated Miguel Cabrera is, among the media, collectors and even Tigers fans, but for the moment I'll leave you with this, courtesy of the Spot Starters:

Miguel Cabrera: .397/.463/.664 9 HR, 32 RBI, 12 2B

Those are Miguel Cabrera's stats since the All Star Break. Yowza.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #11 & #12 Rapid Fire Edition

Oh life, how you get in the way sometimes. Nonetheless!

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

Just as how you may remember our talented number 13 as the team leader in HR and RBI during the 1984 season, (interestingly, an article in the Free Press today indicated that neither the '68 or '84 championship teams had a player with 100 RBIs, and suggested that Miguel Cabrera's recent red-hot streak could change that if the Tigers make it to the World Series) you may remember our #12 for something else.

Catching the final out of the World Series. Sidenote: guess what there's not a good picture of. Larry Herndon catching the final out of the World Series. You'd think that that would be something that was captured and made available somewhere, but nope, note really. Weird. Anyway, he was fully stached when he made the catch.

1984 Topps #333 Larry Herndon

As for number 11, we get our first hispanic mustache of the team--Detroit's squad was a melting pot of styles and cultures, and Juan Berenguer was not one to be excluded.

1984 Topps #174 Juan Berenguer

The #4 starter on the squad had a pretty solid season, going 11-10 with a 3.48 ERA and 118 strikeouts. His ERA+ was a cool 113 so you know he was alright.

Adding in Herndon and Berenguer we've added another starter and another man from the rotation. Will the players on the list get more prestigious as their mustaches become more prominent and robust? That, my friends, remains to be seen. As we crack the top 10 tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brandon Inge's New Look

Uh, what? As the Tigers begin their series in Anaheim, Brandon Inge will apparently do anything to break out of a slump. Anything like...

Huge forearm tattoos! Seriously. (Photo via

The Detroit4Lyfe crew runs down what happened, starting with the assumption that they're fake, and ending with the conclusion that they are, in fact, real--and loved by his wife. What we see are the stylized names of his two children, done by an artist in Anaheim who does tattoos for a bunch of major leaguers and made Inge some sketches the last time the team was in town. Still, leave Oakland, fly to Anaheim, completely cover your arms with tats, play an evening game. Go 1-4. So much for breaking out of a slump. Aren't you supposed to keep them covered for a little while or something?

So, um, ok then. Huge Tattoos for Inge. H/T to Billfer at the Detroit Tigers Weblog on this one this morning. It should be noted that his 2009 Updates and Highlights (All Star or Home Run Derby) card will likely be the last mementos of a virgin skinned Inge, for what it's worth. If nothing else, this will be a good way to sniff out whether the card companies are just recycling old pictures...

Update: A far, far, better shot of the arm ink, courtesy of allikazoo (H/T to Bless You Boys' Game Recap)

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #13 Lance Parrish

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

Up to this point, the mightily mustached 1984 Tigers have consisted of a rookie, some guys who weren't even on the team, and three of the five starting pitchers. With the starters aside, is it any surprise that these mustaches have rated lowest in the bunch? In history, mustaches have been a sign of military rank, battle-tested strength and prowess. As we move up the list, then, it is no surprise that we have our first starting position player.

1984 Topps #640 Lance Parrish

1984 was the third of five consecutive All Star seasons for Lance, and was the season in which he won the second of three consecutive gold gloves. He belted 33 home runs in '84 with 98 RBIs, but batted only .234 during the championship season. I always liked Lance. He was one of a handful of players on the 1984 team whose career I followed throughout my own collecting days, even though he was a California Angel at the time. A great catcher in his day, if not underrated as time goes on, we see here a man who's mustache is both powerful and understated like the man himself.

Contests Abound!

Whilst on vacation, a handful of potentially fruitful contests were posted up to all of us card blog readers.

First up, the Collective Troll is offering up a bevy of hall of fame related goodies, with lots of good stuff up for grabs. You can enter the contest over yonder by becoming a follower on the blog.

Number two, Card Cache has ten thousand extra Allen & Ginter cards that will go off to the glue factory if they aren't won in the contest. You can give them a home, although I've heard that's a great tour.

Finally, Coolio Cards decided to give away some killer cards, judging by the fine picture at the top of the post. Winners are chosen via random number. I recommend choosing the number of your favorite player, from Lou Whitaker to Turk Wendell right over here.

Good luck to you all!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #14 Enos Cabell

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

Back from vacation means no more prescheduled posts, and the return of non-mustache related content. Judging by the web stats, it is, well, not very popular. Nonetheless, I would feel quite silly showing the worst 5 mustaches of the team and just stopping there, so the daily mustache post must continue. Also, I'm going to make these a little more applicable as to how they affected the '84 team, instead of just an empty tirade about the power of the mustache. There's no place for that here--this is a sensible blog that values facts, analysis and aesthetic. I'll leave the rhetoric to these guys as I enter the final two weeks.

Today, Enos Cabell shows us how he hit a career high .311 in 1983 with the Tigers.

1984 Topps #482 Enos Cabell

He's got a pretty good stache going, but he was granted free agency after the 1983 season and didn't play for the '84 championship team. His loss, primarily at 1st Base, was more than made up for my Dave Bergman, as we will see later on in this list. Even more, Enos was a downgrade from the moment he became a Tiger. Sure, his numbers were better than his predecessor for whom he was traded in 1982, but do you really think that he could live up to this?

1981 Topps #27 Champ Summers

Whooo boy, that's a net negative right off the bat. Even with his .311 batting average, Cabell's career high (!) .769 OPS, 16 Walks, 5 Home Runs and 4 Stolen Bases compared to the 8 Caught Stealing just weren't the production that a team needs out of a 1B/DH (or out of anyone, really). So he was jettisoned and a man with greater lip fortitude took over as the primary first basemen during the 1984 campaign.

The Best Granderson Card You've Never Seen

Last year, UD Ballpark Collection offered a handful of Granderson relic cards that put him toe to toe with some other fine players in the game. Perhaps you've heard about these cards? Sure, they were nothing special--seemed a bit like a throwaway set at the time, but they had their relative merits. What was lost on everyone was the fact that there were actually non-relic base cards thrown in there, somewhere. With all the cards numbered consecutively (what? I don't get a UDBC-GRGTBW for my numbering?), it went rather unnoticed that card #38, was just a good ol' fashioned base card. That fact went further unnoticed when the base card couldn't be found anywhere.

I'm serious. I saw the card one time--the day that Ballpark Collection hit eBay via the people who break open cases of the stuff, before it was widely available to us lay people. I never once saw the card again. I've seen a million of the Granderson/Upton cards, plenty of the Quad Relics and a handful of the 6x cards, but I've never seen the base card since.

So that's it. I just wanted to let you know that it exists, but that I haven't seen it save for one day.

Ok, fine.

2008 UD Ballpark Collection #38 Curtis Granderson

Are you kidding me?! There were cards like that in Ballpark Collection? Maybe I'm totally off-base here, but that is a fantastic looking card. It blows all of the relics etc. out of the water. Explain to me, then, why the whole set wasn't like this? It has that "Artifacts" vibe to it, but the wood sets it apart. The gold foil and "Ballpark Collection" logo looks sharp and they've used an outstanding picture of Curtis Granderson that hasn't been used in any other card. Spring Training (notice the away jersey, home helmet), with a huge smile. Fantastic.

The fact that more cards aren't like this is sad. Mostly, it is sad because it shows you that the companies are capable of producing good looking cards but seem to lose their way somewhere along the line. It boggles my mind that it has taken me a year to track this card down, and now that I have it, I'm happy to share it with all of you. So there it was, the best Curtis Granderson card that you've never seen, now available for all to see (On Zistle too!).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #15 John Martin

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

Sometimes a mustache just isn't about being cool, right John?

1984 Topps #24 John Martin

John Martin serves an important role for us, he is the divider between the good and the bad. Up to this point, we've had role players, and back of the rotation types, with the exception, Jack Morris, just biding his time for appropriate hyponasal growth to occur. The '84 Tigers filled in the gaps with substandard Mustaches, because that is what winners do. They find pieces to the puzzle. A team doesn't start the year 35-5 out of the blue, do they?

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #16 Milt Wilcox

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

Oh, Milt. What can I say about you? Your mustache is full and well groomed, factors that should be the recipe for success. Sure, you're not on the path to Czardom, but you should be able to hang around in the upper-middle class of a mustached society. Yet something is amiss...

1984 Topps#588 Milt Wilcox

Maybe a mustache just isn't your thing. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because you made the best with what you had. You're still a champion, aren't you? How many others can say that. It should serve to inspire the rest of us, who can only dream of having a nice mustache like yours, but are betrayed by the bathroom mirror, or bad lighting, or a poorly taken photograph in which we think, "what color is that?" Maybe mine is a little redder than my hair. Maybe yours is a little blonder. Who cares, when victory is on the line?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #17 Dave Rozema

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

It is not enough just to grow a mustache, you need to respect the mustache. If you take care of it, it will take care of you. Do more than just slap some extra hair on the face. A good mustache will enhance your face, make you appear stronger, tougher, smarter, more attractive even more accomplished. Just ask Dave Rozema. The year after the Tigers won the World Series, he was the cock of the walk, sporting his robust lip cover.

But not in 1984. There was no respect for the stache in 1984 from Rozema, when he thought a thinnish, measly mustache was the way to go.

1984 Topps #457 Dave Rozema

Winning Changes Everything. Don't half-ass your mustache or you will look like half an ass. Kickoff is in 17 days.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #18 Glenn Wilson

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

So our bottom two are there by default--they are small, weak little mustaches still in the early days of growth. I've been there. So have these guys. It's OK. What's not ok is subjecting your face to the Glenn Wilson treatment.

1984 Topps #563 Glenn Wilson

That just screams Buckstache to me, something that we don't tolerate well around these parts. Heck, even a self respecting Texan like Wilson should know better than that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Champion's Stache: #19 Jack Morris

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

Even the All Time Greats need to grow it in sometime. We're talking about Jack Morris--the near (and maybe future) Hall of Fame Pitcher, who dominated the league to the tune of 19 wins in 1984. He was no longer a rookie, but he still needed to grow that mustache in.

1984 Topps #195 Jack Morris

We can't all be Hall of Famers from the get-go. Some of us need some time for everything to fill out properly. Of course, Jack went on to have an exceptional career, both for the Tigers and as the key mustached piece of the 1991 (Twins) and 1992 (Blue Jays) World Champion teams. How could anybody hope to stop this?

Let that mustache grow, and you too can be a champion.

Programming Note

As of this post, I will be on vacation with no Internet access until Sunday. Prescheduled posts are brief and 1984 mustache related. Just when you are starting to get sick of them, I'll return in a blaze of glory and show off some new cards as well. The entire 1984 mustache countdown will finish on September 5th, but will just be an addition to normal Grand Cards programming. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009


I'm glad this happened today instead of tomorrow when I'm on vacation with no internet...

So, the Tigers have acquired Aubrey Huff from the O's, which is a big time move. Mack Avenue Tigers and the Detroit Tigers Weblog were the winners on my RSS feeder. Mainstream Media via the Free Press, News, and Sun.

Tigers get a big (or medium sized, as is the case this year) lefty bat in exchange for Brett Jacobsen, the former 4th rounder low-level, decent upside minor leaguer. Baseball America rated him 10th in the Tigers System heading into this year. This is definitely the type of move you would expect a team in contention to make and at first glance it meets with my approval. His 72 RBIs would put him in the team lead, for what it's worth. He gives some positional flexibility as well, and although he is more of a 1B/DH he can play at 3rd (he can't possibly be worse defensively than Raburn) and could even give it a go in Left Field. For a guy who is only hitting .253, the Free Press tells me that he has hit .324 with runners in scoring position, which should be welcome news for Tigers fans on the heels of an 0-16 RISP day on Sunday.

It will be unlikely that I'll be able to do much more for commentary because I'm wrapping things up at work and then hitting the road, but this is a good move for the Tigers that should help tremendously with their offensive woes. The order is stronger and more stout because of this, the future hasn't been tremendously compromised and the team has a better chance to win. If that's not what you look for out of a trade, then I don't know what is.

Stick with some of the links above for updates, as there hasn't been a move on the 25 man roster yet.

A Champion's Stache: #20 Barbaro Garbey

In light of my newfound commitment to the greater good that is the collective power of Michigan fans growing mustaches for the September 5th opening game, I thought it best to recall a time 25 years ago when Mustaches led our own Detroit Tigers to their last World Series Championship

1984 Topps Traded #41T Barbaro Garbey

There are 19 days to go. That means that you have enough time to grow a better mustache than Barbaro Garbey, who checks in at #20 on the list. Of course, Barbaro was just a rookie in that 1984 season and may have needed the confidence that only a mustache can bring as he played in 110 games on the way to the Tigers' first championship since 1968. It's small, and it's thin, but it is there. You have a choice. With 19 days to go, you can either be a Barbaro Garbey or a Dave Gumpert.

1984 Topps #371 Dave Gumpert

Don't be a Dave Gumpert.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beardy has company; Permanently, Partially, Temporarily

What could that possibly mean?

Oh my god, this exists. Beloved local O's blogger Beardy has company--in force.

Partially (& Temporarily)
I just found out about this yesterday from MGoBlog, and I'm already two weeks late in the game:

I feel compelled to participate--I can't handle another 3-9 season. Alumni Unite!

Not a Michigan Man? Even the Mets are on board. It really makes you think about what could have been this year, eh Mets fans? After all, the Tigers have embraced the power:

Although maybe if Curtis Granderson would embrace and expand on what he once had they'd be able to build on that slim first place lead.

Coincidence that the Tigers also had this on the team in their 2006 World Series year?

From Grand Cards

I don't think so.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where's Grandcards?

Oh boy, has it ever been a week. Not a bad week, mind you, but just one of those weeks. My entire family was in town from Saturday through Tuesday, and I was actually called to New York on business first thing Tuesday morning. I had to stay over there and then drive straight back to the office Wednesday morning, and now is the start of the busiest two weeks of the work year for us. Whew. The obvious minus is that I haven't been able to scan any cards or pull any posts together. The plus side was this:

What, you think I'd be up in New York and not try to catch a game? I'm a stadium junkie and I was certainly not disappointed by what they did at the New Yankee Stadium. They spared no expense and ended up with a very nice stadium. Even better, it was packed on a Tuesday night, and had especially great atmosphere when Matsui and Posada hit back to back home runs to put the Yankees in the lead. I have only two complaints that really resonate with me.

1. When I walk around the main level concourse, I am completely blocked off from seeing any of the field from the outfield. I am stuck in a tunnel. Lame. I like being able to walk around a stadium and see the game from a variety of angles and I couldn't do that here--in fact, I couldn't do anything in the outfield except for walk.

2. The Yankees do not produce generic bobbleheads. Starting in middle school, every time I go to a new stadium, I get a generic bobblehead of that team. This task was made much harder when Twins Ent. went out of business--they made the best ones. Now, all anybody ever has are player bobble heads, which I don't care about. Still, there are some generics made nowadays (the "Big Head" variety by Forever Collectibles) but not in New York apparently. I couldn't get one when I made my only trip to Yankee Stadium for last year's All Star game and there wasn't one when I went to the new stadium this week. Sadness.

Other than that, I lucked out with some great seats and saw a great game. Now, for additional enjoyment, some Curtis Granderson cards that I've come upon recently.

2008 SP Authentic #62 Curtis Granderson Gold (#46/50)

This is a little known parallel version of one of my favorite cards of last year.

Speaking of last year, I'm slowly chipping away at this set (which I like more and more as the page fills up):
2008 UD Heroes #60 Curtis Granderson Emerald (#118/499)

And for something a little more "now" Upper Deck presents the same general card in two different sets. Notice the different logos though...

So, despite an exhausting week, it never hurts to take a moment and reflect on the good things, which were plentiful. And the Tigers finally won a game at Fenway on the back of Justin Verlander--perhaps a sign of good things still to come?

Monday, August 10, 2009

No Small Feat

Despite an otherwise pedestrian 1-4 day (with a walk), Curtis Granderson nabbed his 20th stolen base of the season, giving him his second 20-20 season of his short career. In so doing, Granderson joins Kirk Gibson(4 times) and Alan Trammell (twice) as the only other players in the history of the Detroit Tigers Franchise to go 20-20 in more than one season. This is all the more notable considering that the Tigers have the fewest steals and fourth fewest attempts in the American League. David Mayo of the Grand Rapids Press runs it down and looks at the prospect of a 30-30 season, which would be the first in Tigers history.

To commemorate, a pair of recent acquisitions to highlight the feat. First you get the steals...
2008 Topps Stadium Club #6 Curtis Granderson First Day Issue

Then you get the power...

2009 Topps TTT43 Curtis Granderson Toppstown Gold

I wouldn't mind if Granderson piles on the numbers to end up on the 2010 version of this card either.
2009 Upper Deck #437 Detroit Tigers Team Leaders

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Must Be Nice

I felt as thought I had an obligation to showcase this card, in its full, inconveniently oversized N43 glory:

This is actually the first time that I've ever seen this card available, and as much as I would have liked to go all out to get it (I did place a bid that was quickly beaten) , I just didn't have $73 lying around. Sigh.

Instead, I've captured it here in electronic form to show to all of you, in case you've forgotten the reason that we all collect baseball cards in light of all the Upper Deck/Topps turmoil. As long that there are cards like this around, I'll still be a collector.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Get That Man a Baseball Card: Alex Avila

The son of the Tigers assistant GM made his major league debut yesterday afternoon and immediately performed better than all of the other Tigers backup catchers have this season. 2-4 with an RBI double for his first big league hit is the kind of call-up performance that gets you a shout out around these parts. Not too bad for a 2008 draftee only a year removed from college. Let's Get That Man a Baseball Card, because if yesterday was any indication, we don't want to ignore his potential impact on what could be a memorable 2009 stretch run for the Tigers.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Bombshell and The Aftermath

I caught this news early this morning, but have been in meetings up to this point and haven't had a chance to comment. Normally I pass on the whole "hobby news" stuff, but the significance of Topps being granted an exclusive baseball card license is worth talking about. I'll try to avoid becoming "Dan the Economist" again, mostly because I can't scan in hand-drawn graphs of a market with a monopoly. Don't think I won't though, if it needs to come to that.

So here's the deal: Topps has an exclusive MLB license, meaning that they can produce baseball cards the way we think of them. Upper Deck does not have said license, but does have a MLBPA agreement, meaning that they can produce cards of players. As Gellman at SCU mentioned UD has said that it is more about the players than the logos on the jerseys anyway. Personally, I don't think that is the case in baseball. If I wanted a card of a star with some lame plain helmet or generic jersey, I'd go out and buy some Mootown Snackers, thank you very much. To draw on my inner Bo, for me and many, many others it is all about the team, the team, the team. Sure, I'm a Curtis Granderson collector, but more importantly I am a Detroit Tigers collector--and that is where things get murky.

I'm somebody who tends to obsess over two things (and I think that many of you can relate): completeness and continuity. I started off collecting Topps cards because that's what my Dad collected, and when I really got back into things, my goal was to go after the Topps team sets. That way, I could create a continuum of all Tigers teams and the evolution of the game, the players and the cards. As a kid, I always loved Upper Deck's cards as well, even if the were a little pricey for me. With 20 years under their belt, their significance in the card world, and their much larger checklist of Tigers, I've been going after Tigers team sets from Upper Deck too. So Topps was my bedrock and Upper Deck a welcome addition. Beyond that, I'll collect team sets for releases that look nice--A&G, Heritage, Goudey, Masterpieces (I collected that whole set), knowing that if they discontinue or I stop liking them, I still have my two flagship sets to fall back on.

In this way, the loss of Upper Deck hurts. I really enjoyed Upper Deck's base set. The photography, the full-bleed, the large checklist--it was a direct contrast to a standard Topps set, and added a new dimension to my collection. With that option now gone, I don't feel comfortable being at the mercy of Topps alone. Sure, they've made many good sets and provide us with Chrome and Heritage and A&G and more, but they also brought us Co-Signers and Moments & Milestones and a bunch of other lackluster sets that weren't worth my money or my time. Upper Deck did the same thing mind you--releasing set after set of half-baked, poorly designed junk, but when there are two companies that produce a ton of crap and a handful of gems, you can skim the cream off the top. With only one company, there is less cream to skim.

Such is the danger of a monopoly. The traditional economic model tells us that quantity produced will decrease and prices will rise. We know for a fact that quantity produced is going to decrease--as Topps alone can't possibly release enough products to make up for the loss of an entire company. Don't be surprised then when prices rise a little bit as the demand for cards is consolidated among the fewer releases. Oh, heck--for the wonks among us:

Here's what happens. With fewer products and the same demand (note how the downward sloping curve doesn't shift), Topps is going to be able to charge a higher price for its products. This will drive some collectors out of the market (the difference between X1 and X2 in the bottom graph). Now, in the competitive market, the card companies shared the total industry sales. With only one company, Topps can afford to lose some customers while still charging a higher price to yield greater profit--this is how monopoly works. They may not go out of control, especially because their license will need to be renewed by MLB, but don't be surprised if you see this sort of thing happening to some degree.

Even if prices don't change, the consolidation of the industry is bad if for no other reason than it restricts choice. I chose to buy packs of Goudey and Masterpieces. I chose to buy individual autographed or game used cards that I liked. I have a finite amount of money and will choose what to do with it.

That said, Topps' control of the baseball card market doesn't mean the death of the hobby. Rather, it may lead to a much-needed refocusing of the industry, that streamlines and simplifies product lines. There is such thing as too much choice, after all. That's why places like Costco and Trader Joe's are successful. It seems to me that Topps and Upper Deck both pushed mediocre products to fill a slot in the release calendar, fit a certain price point and hit a perceived market. If these products go by the wayside as a way to simplify collecting for the next generation, then I certainly won't complain. That said, a watchful eye needs to be kept on Topps, who can't be allowed to let their quality slip from it's current 2009 high point. I think that team and set collectors will still have plenty to chose from and happy collecting ahead of them with a product line centered around Topps, Heritage, Chrome, Bowman, A&G and Finest with a smattering of other releases mixed in.

Where Topps stands to gain tremendously in volume and low- to mid-level releases, it stands lose in the high-end market. The high-end is the player collector's domain, and Upper Deck has proven that they can consistently design and produce excellent products at this level. Topps has a choice. It can either choose to compete or it can concede the market to the non-licensed companies. As a Granderson collector, I am up in the air with this. I think that if the cards are well designed then they will sell and I will buy them. With the overhead of an MLB license out of the way, Upper Deck can spend more on design, production and acquisition of autographs, leading to a better selection of these items. Either way, these will continue to be cards that I, and many others, buy exclusively off eBay after some risk-taking entrepreneurial types bust cases. This may also reduce the pressure on Topps to compete in an area where they have had only limited success, allowing them to focus more on set design and less on an autograph checklist.

So that's where we are. As a team collector, I am saddened, because I truly liked a handful of Upper Deck's offerings and there is a 0% chance that I will buy them without my beloved Old English D on the cards. At the same time, I still have my Topps set and the continuity that I crave. As a player collector, I am apprehensive about how the unlicensed cards of my player of choice will turn out, but at the same time relieved that I won't be compelled to pick up cards from the various crappy releases that both companies came out with. In all, time will tell if this ends up being a good thing or a bad thing. I do feel like some simplification was necessary--a trimming of the fat if you will. If this brings kids back into the collecting game for example, then it is a good thing.

I also think that a monopoly necessitates rigid oversight--something that the blogging community needs to step up and provide. Don't forget, collectors are the market, and as much as Topps may have control over things, we still decide what is successful and what isn't. Topps' customer service has proved responsive and considerate in the last year. Their card releases have been excellent. They also (likely) will need to earn their license again, and if there is one thing that I know about monopolies, is that they will do whatever they can to keep them. Topps wants you to buy more cards and wants you to like them because they want to keep that license. Give 'em hell, folks because all the credit or blame will fall squarely on their shoulders.

A fond farewell then to Upper Deck, a company that defined the last twenty years of collecting, for better or for worse. If nothing else, my obsessive side is satiated by the fact that Upper Deck neatly runs from 1989-2009. That sounds like one big, beautiful team binder to me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ultimate Checklist: 2009 Topps Chrome Detroit Tigers

2009 Topps Chrome cards are trickling into the mainstream, and Beckett already has their checklists up. Cross-referencing with eBay this is what we're looking at:

Main Set:
91 Miguel Cabrera
113 Magglio Ordonez
120 Curtis Granderson
129 Jeremy Bonderman
191 Ryan Perry
200 Rick Porcello
225 Ryan Perry (Autograph)

WBC Insert Set
W21 Miguel Cabrera
W75 Magglio Ordonez
W85 Fu-Te Ni

Here's a blue refractor to feast your eyes on:

Hmm...looks like Topps eliminated the one thing that I really liked about last year's set--different pictures. This is the same Granderson shot as is used in the regular Topps set, and Porcello's is the same too. I'm guessing that the others follow suit. That is disappointing, as the picture variation was always one of my biggest incentives to go after these cards (well, that and refractory goodness).

Also disappointing: the sad little Tigers checklist. Where's Verlander? Where's Jackson? These are our All Stars people, and they should be in the set. Why is Bonderman there, I ask you. Why?

From the looks of it, there are regular cards, refractors, blue refractors (#/199), Gold Refractors (#/50), Red Refractors (#/25) and the 1/1 Superfractor and printing plates. The same holds true on the WBC inserts except that from what I can tell refractors are numbered to 500. The Ryan Perry Autograph refractor is numbered to 499.

As always, this list may adjust as more information comes available, but it won't do so here. Nope, the most up-to-date checklist and all the other 2009 Tigers sets can be found here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baseball Cards Meet Stamp Collecting

In light of the recent announcement that hundreds of post offices will be evaluated for closure, I couldn't think of a better time to post one of my favorite cards of the year:
2009 SP Legendary Cuts #84 Curtis Granderson

Can you imagine what would have happened if baseball "cards" were originally issued as stamps instead of as tobacco cards? It would be chaos. Now, I am no stamp collector, but I really like this card for reasons I can't explain. It is a faux-vintage, stamp looking card that shows Granderson bunting (which he rarely does) and is all purple with some Gold Foil that pops and is easy to read. Apparently, that is the recipe for a good card. It's also possible that I'm more accustomed to cards that aren't so shiny and reflective so as to blind the beholder. Give me my matte finish and a nice, original design any day.

This is the only Granderson card in 2009 SP Legendary Cuts and is a worthy 2009 offering.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Are you ready, because this is going to be big. The most Iconi...wait, oh, I'm sorry. It turns out these cards are better classified as "Mediocre" or "OK", but UDOK doesn't have the same ring to it as "Icons." So, without further ado, I give you the only two cards from 2009 Upper Deck Icons that I have or ever plan on possessing.

2009 UD Icons #27 Curtis Granderson

2009 UD Icons #27 Curtis Granderson Red (Retail)

These are the types of cards where when you have one of them you think, "hey, this isn't that bad. I'm ok possessing this card," which pretty much sums up my feelings on it as well. It's not bad. But man, can you picture a set of these suckers? That will be a boring, awful set--kind of if you only went after the base set of 2008 UD Heroes with none of the colorful variation. Even a team set seems too much to bear.

Never fear though because red parallel versi...oh, seriously? Those look worse than the regular cards? Note to card companies: if a parallel looks worse than the base card (chances are that if can see a reflection of myself taking a picture of the card it will be worse) than it shouldn't be produced. In this case, we have a card that defies the laws of physics by being both dull and too reflective (?). And why does the regular card have foil on the logo but not the name and the foil-y card have regular printing for the logo and a name I can't read? Ugh. No more analysis of these cards, please.

So there we go. The only two Curtis Granderson cards in UD Icons. They are perfectly nice, and will quietly occupy two slots in a binder page, buried between some other 2009 miscellany where I can fondly reflect on them in due time. Just don't make me talk about them any more.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Million Dollar Question

Now that the trade deadline has passed and Jarrod Washburn is safely in the Tigers' clutches, it's time to ask the Million Dollar Question: Will Luke French's Topps Rookie card be as a Tiger or as a Mariner?

Jaybee's already has the list of the big rookies that will debut with Topps Updates & Highlights. There is is clear as day:

CHR53: Luke French.

Not too long ago, I requested that Topps Get Luke French A Baseball Card after his stellar debut with the Tigers. I'm glad to see that they clearly take this blog as the gospel for new rookie card demand (How else can you explain CHR17, CHR55, and my favorite, CHR01 (!) that all hail from my "Get That Man A Baseball Card" segment, or its "Hello:" precursor.

But now the tricky part--French started as a Tiger but was traded to the Mariners. U&H is typically set up to recognize trades made by the deadline, which gives me the sinking feeling that he won't be in an Old English D in the set. Oh well, at least they're including him, unlike the inexcusable exclusion of Jair Jurrjens' Rookie Card from the 2007 set before he was traded away to the Braves.