Grand Cards: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

One Hot April

2010 Topps Attax Miguel Cabrera "Hot Streak"

It's been quite the month for Miguel Cabrera. As reports, despite going hitless on Wednesday and Thursday:
[Cabrera] still leads the league in RBIs (25) and is second in doubles (10). Cabrera also ranks among the leaders in a host of categories, including batting average (.330), on-base percentage (.419), hits (30) and total bases (55).

But wait, there's more:
Cabrera's April ranks with the best in franchise history, as he ranks second on the Tigers' charts in doubles (10), third in RBIs, fourth in extra-base hits (15) and seventh in total bases.

The best April in the history of the franchise which, last I checked, is not full of slouches. That's amazing. And I heartily agree that Cabrera has been incredible so far this season. But I think that many people don't realize just how good he is and, just how criminal it is that he hasn't sniffed an All-Star roster in his two seasons in Detroit. Back me up, stats:
What's more, Cabrera leads the league in home runs (76) and RBIs (255) since the start of 2008, when he became a Tiger.

Aka, Miguel Cabrera has been the most prolific power hitter in the American League since he joined the league two years ago. Detroit fans, please nod in knowing agreement. Everyone else, you may continue furrowing your brow in a futile attempt to understand.

Obviously, All-Star appearances are not the end all and be all of baseball, and it is mostly a popularity contest anyway, but you'd think that a player like this just might be able to squeeze onto a roster at some point.

Seems to me that this has been a little more than just a "Hot Streak."

Finally, for anyone who still harbors some bad memories following Cabrera's late season issues last year comes this bit from Lynn Henning, buried in an article about Big Ten Expansion:
Miguel Cabrera's recovery has been so complete and so convincing that I never hear the subject discussed, even privately. It was hashed out thoroughly during TigerFest in January. It was re-visited during spring training. But with Cabrera continuing to personally look like a new man, and with his hitting again on a different scale from the mere mortals who play baseball, the topic of his past alcohol abuse appears, happily, to be old news.

I think we can all agree that that is a good thing for everybody involved. Viva Miguel!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two Grand

2009 SP Authentic #30 Magglio Ordonez

Remember that time when Magglio Ordonez got his 2,000th Career hit?

That was awesome.

Congrats to Magglio--or as he is colorfully known on the Bless You Boys message boards, "Singlio", given his relative power outage last year--on reaching that milestone in today's game. Sometimes it's easy to forget that he has been a really, really good baseball player for quite some time.

Some Chicle Advice Would Be Nice

I'm in a bit of a pickle. From the scans I've seen, I like Chicle. No, I'm not going to make this entire post rhyme. I really am in a pickle.

This time.


So here's the thing: I'm collecting the Tigers team set, as I am wont to do for anything that looks remotely nice. See: Goudey, A&G, Masterpieces etc. The problem is that the Tigers have only 8 cards in the set. Of those, Cabrera and Dlugach are drawn horribly, and I'm hit or miss on the Verlander. We're talking about an aesthetic success rate that is under 65%.

Meanwhile, there are other cards in the set that I think are stunningly awesome. Seems to me as thought this is the recipe for set collection, right?

The last time I collected a set was 2008 Masterpieces. I bought two blasters and was so frustrated with collation (50% doubles in Blaster 2) that I just said screw it and bought the whole set on eBay. So I have the set, yet it holds little emotional weight.

Contrast that to 2007 Masterpieces, which I also collected "the old fashioned way" and have fond memories of. Still, even with the whole process behind me, it sits is a binder next to 2008, relatively unlooked at.

So the dilemma I have is one part "should I collect this set" and one part "geez, I can get the base set for $19.99 and I really like a lot of the cards, so should I just buy it?"

And honestly, I don't know. So for the moment, I need some advice from someone--anyone--who has seen these cards in person.

How are they? How do they feel? How do they look? Shine? Fall? Display?

The appealing part of this set to me is the original art variation throughout. It doesn't stand to get boring or monotonous throughout the course of the cards. The downside is that some of the cards are plain ugly, but if they are a minority I can get by it.

What I'd like to do is go out and buy a pack of Chicle to see for myself, but I haven't been able to do that yet. In the meantime, I'll just rely on the lot of you.

What do you think of National Chicle?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Grand Scheme Is Back In Town

In the City was as exhausting as it sounds, as miserable as you would expect a cold rainy New York to be and really awesome for one humorously proportioned reason:


One thing that I like to do is travel to different baseball stadiums around the country, and when I'm there buy a team bobble head. On Sunday, I was treated to a weather-shortened trip to the Mets' Citi Field, which I must say I really, really liked. Not only did I get the mascot bobblehead with an oversized noggin, I was treated to oversized baseball cards too.

At the entrance:

And above the concessions stands

It is worth noting that because this was a work trip and I wasn't expecting to go to the game until the last minute I didn't have a camera and these pictures were actually stolen off some unsuspecting flickr'ers' pages. Rest assured, the oversized baseball cards were still there when I went. I thought that the daily lineup use of the cards was outstanding, the stadium as a whole got a thumbs up--especially the bridge area in Right Center--and I LOVED the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum. Well done Wilpons. A commemorative Mr. Met is now displayed proudly in your honor.

And another one At some point this eluded me, but there is another Detroit Tigers card in Topps Series 1 that I never included in my posts or checklists.

2010 Topps #HOTG14 1st Hall of Fame Class

Right there in the middle is Ty Cobb aka the guy who got the highest vote totals of any of the inductees in the first Hall of Fame class. That's a Tiger card all right.

National Chicle circa 1953 A Cardboard Problem passed on the info that National Chicle is live. I'd like to get some in my hands before I judge them. With everyone making a fuss about the hand painted cards though, my first taste of painted cards was waiting for me when I got home today.

These are the first 1953 cards that I've ever seen in person or had in my possession and they are just fantastic. Note to self: Get more 1953 cards.

One of them good problems? Sometimes, when a player goes out there and exceeds all expectations and is doing great and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon it is healthy to take a deeper look and perhaps criticize parts of said players game, expose holes or mention areas of potential improvement. This is a good thing. It keeps us grounded--the player isn't superman after all-- but also keeps us optimistic--think of what he could be if he fixed this, for example.

So this is one of those good problems right? Right?!?
The American League's top Rookie of the Year candidate? That's easy: Austin Jackson. Any plain fool could see that.

Yay! Oh, wait.
Jackson is making very poor contact, leading the AL in strikeouts and whiffing at a rate that would work out to over 220 strikeouts in 600 at-bats. Simultaneously, he’s hitting .500 on balls in play, which is to say that half of everything he actually makes contact with falls in. The reason for that, in turn, is a line-drive rate of 33 percent. The line drive rate for all batters this year is about 18 percent. Last year it was 19 percent. We have no way of knowing what the average line-drive rate was in, say, 1912, but I very much doubt even Ty Cobb hit one-third of balls solidly over a full season.

Aw, geez he just...well he uh...was playing so well I thought he was Ty Cobb. You guys lied to me! You told me he was Ty Cobb!

In fact, no. We knew all along that it was Austin Jackson, he of the "struck out a ton in the Minor Leagues" fame. And that's fine. As Rob Neyer says:

Is it impossible to be a productive hitter while striking out 200 times? Nope. Ryan Howard and Mark Reynolds have proved that quite convincingly. Before them, Adam Dunn.
And he's right. But you know what those guys haven't even done? How about struck out in each of their first 19 major league games. As in, Austin Jackson has done something that nobody in baseball has done since the strikeout became an official recorded stat back in the aughts or what have you: he set a record for most consecutive games with a strikeout to start a career. He has 32 in 19 games. 32! He's not exactly trending to a 40 home run season either.

Then again, he's hitting .314 and heading into the bottom of the 9th tonight Jackson hasn't struck out--and he was facing Francisco Liriano who just carved up the Tigers 10 times on the night--so maybe things will turn around for the better. More likely though, things will turn around for the worse once it becomes apparent that Austin Jackson isn't twice as skilled of a hitter as the greatest hitter of all time and falls back into those normal bands of expected production. FWIW, I still like the kid.

More Ajax Everyone else does too, apparently:
Opposing managers are starting to rave about the Tigers' rookie centerfielder. During the Tigers-Angels series last week, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Jackson reminded him of B.J. Upton, the speedy and powerful centerfielder of the Tampa Bay Rays.

After he saw Jackson in the first two games of the Tigers-Texas series, Texas manager Ron Washington said, "He looks like a baseball player. He has a good idea of what his ability is. And he can run. He can move." Washington gave Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon a lot of credit for Jackson's success, including his at-bat to at-bat resiliency.

Pushing the all too easy "Ron Washington is on cocaine--see?" jokes, is that just the most useless quote you've ever seen? Go get 'em Ron. Nice job on the praise though Ajax.

Down on the Farm WOTS is that the Tigers waaay overtaxed bullpen might need some relief from the minor leagues. I don't have any insight into this, but it does allow me to segue into the Topps Pro Debut minor league cards that I just got and LOVE.

That is one of 11 cards from the set of players in the Tigers system and it shows the coolest thing that I didn't know about the minor league teams: The Oneonta Tigers (now former Oneonta Tigers) modified an Old English D into an "O" and it is fantastic.

Topps has created a minor league set that actually looks and feels legit for the first time in who knows how long and it seamlessly integrates into the design of their regular base set. Win. Please do this again and again and again.

Misc. Barry Larkin is getting his number retired. Did you know that he originally went to Michigan to play football? That's cool. Granderson is really struggling right now, but he will have a card in the happy super fun team bonus sets that are a horrible pain to track down. Why is Topps 206 coming back? That should have been a one-off for sure. I guess it will be minis only for me again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Grand Scheme Knows You're Not Excited, But Doesn't Know Why

As Fun As A Kick in The Crotch Is that a pervasive malaise I hear among the collecting community? A Cardboard Problem was feeling it a month ago, I Am Joe Collector caught it, and Beardy is preaching it from the rooftops. The jist is this:

Collectors right now are bored.

I understand. Let's see. So far this year there have been the three "illegal" Upper Deck releases, only one of which was really exciting (Ultimate Collection) and is no longer really buyable because of pervasive counterfeiting.

There has been Topps, Topps Lite (Opening Day), Topps Jr. (Pro Debut) and Heritage on the other end. That is three of the same basic design and one of a rehashed design using the same formula for a decade. Recently, there was Topps Finest, which I thought looked snazzy as always, but failed to set the world on fire.

So people are cranky. And bored with what's out there. And not excited about collecting anything but stuff from the mid-aughts, or vintage things or what have you.

It's gotten so bad that eTopps was just listed amongst the best current releases and Beardy is already hyping up Gint-A-Cuffs II even though we're still months away from the next Allen & Ginter iteration.

These are Dark Times.

The Good Ol' Days I admit that I don't remember such a unified lull among bloggers at this time last year, but I'm not sure why. It's not like we were swimming in card-collector paradise. Just look at the release calendar.

February 4 - Topps Series 1
February 5 - Upper Deck Series 1
February 6 - Playoff Contenders
February 25 - Topps Heritage
February 27 - UD Spectrum
March 11 - UD First Edition
March 26 - SPx
April 2 - Topps Finest
April 16 - UD Piece of History
April 23 - Donruss Century Collection
April 29 - UD Goudey

That release calendar extends until the end of April 2009. In it we see two unlicensed products that nobody thought twice about (Playoff Contenders, Donruss Century Coll.), the unequivocally "meh" UD Spectrum, SPx--which people were ok with , the hit or miss UD POH and UD First Edition which not even UD First Edition's mother cares about.

With this in mind, it seems as though we are all going through a bit of withdrawl. Ask yourself this: were you really excited about Spectrum, or POH or SPx? No. You weren't and you know it. But they were something fresh and different and new to tide you over with a pack here or a pack there while you waited for something that you really wanted. The next big thing, as it were. In this case it was probably Goudey, or maybe something else.

So what are we to do, the masses seeking something to be excited about and with nothing new out there to feed our cravings, no matter how mediocre? Where is the excitement?

Get Excited It's coming.

I think, mostly because of the HUMUNGOUS INITIAL BACKLASH over the product previews, that people have written off National Chicle. If you are one of those people, you are a fool. Here are three reasons why (from one of Beckett's two galleries):

Oh, and there is a page of many, many more reasons why that have been posted in an unprecedented display of transparency to remedy the PR nightmare that was the initial preview of this set. This set not only replaces Goudey on the release calendar, it looks to me like it is going to surpass it in many ways.

Lest we forget:

1. Topps knows how to do vintage-y cards. They do them really, really well.

2. The #1 Biggest Complaint in the card industry since I re-started collecting has been the use of sticker autographs. These are all on-card and the initial checklist, if it stays intact, is strong.

This may very well be the first set that I decide to collect in its entirety since 2007/2008 UD Masterpieces. Why? The cards, by and large, look phenomenal. Sure, you'll get your occasional duds:

Of which I'm FURIOUS that these two players are made to look like brothers with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, thereby ruining, in my eyes, the best Tigers card in the set. There are others too, that are just not very good paintings. But they seem to be the minority. Taken as a whole, with a ton of preview images out there, this set looks great. Like, best set in a long long time great. Like, these are all hand painted and many of the images look as good if not better than UD Masterpieces great.

Yes, I'm annoyed by the Chipper/Ruth card. It is stupid. It is also just one card in a subset that I don't need to collect. Did I complain when 2008 UD Masterpieces featured Zombie Roy Halladay? No. It was what it was and I just turned the page and looked at my beautiful Evan Longorias and the like.

To me, the only question remaining is how will these cards look and feel when they are released? The only thing that I can see sinking this ship is a crappy cardstock choice or a bait-and-switch auto checklist and I think that Topps is too good at making sets like this to make that mistake (especially the former).

So Buck Up Suck it up folks. Quit moping. What is potentially the best baseball card set to be released in two years is coming out NEXT WEEK and there has been exactly ZERO hype for it. Zero. This passive-agression will not stand. Get on your computers, browse some images, see that box pre-orders are pretty darn affordable given two on-card autos and buck up.

I don't care if you buy any of these. I'm not a Topps shill. I don't even care if you like the cards or not. What I care about is shattering the illusion that there is nothing going on in the hobby and nothing to look forward to for months. There is and it's time that you start paying attention.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Market Forces

This does not totally surprise me, but I find this an interesting opportunity for social experiment in market forces.

Both cards that I sold last week are now re-listed on eBay by their respective buyers.

The UD Black card has a BIN/OBO of $149.99. Were it to sell for that amount, the new seller would have profited tremendously, and the card would have sold for roughly 6 times what I paid for it when I first bought it.

The Triple Threads card is re-listed as an auction, and I am very interested to see where it ends up in two days. I felt as though the card went cheap on my listing, and the buyer apparently thought so to, because it is right back up there.

No matter what happens, I'm going to take this as a learning experience--learning how to properly list and market cards, how to time them during the week even learning when to sell relative to other cards. The Granderson market has been unpredictable lately, with ho-hum cards selling for far more than I would expect and nice ones selling for a pittance. Either my preferences are out of whack or there is room to exploit some market inefficiencies. The two sellers of my former cards are clearly in the latter camp.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blog Bat Around: My $50,000 eBay Shopping Spree

A Standing O to Gellman for reinstating the Blog Bat Arounds. The topic this time asked, if you had 15 minutes and $50,000 to spend on eBay, what would you get? So simple, yet so hard.

Word to the wise, go after the "neat" cards that you've always wanted at your own peril. Also, it's easy to get distracted, pulled onto tangents, or overwhelmed. I started at a leisurely pace, going after some cards I knew I wanted. For a cool $467.50 The original Hammerin' Hank came first:

This was quickly followed by a 1954 Al Kaline Rookie ($1479.99) and a '54 rookie of that other Hammerin' Hank ($6,000)

Diversions aside, got to go back to the Tigers. A 1948 Bowman George Kell has always been up my alley ($1595)

Bowman. Bowman. You know what bowman set I've always really liked? Yeah, 1951. And you know what card I've always wanted from 1951 Bowman?

Monte Irvin?!?! Yeah, that's right. Monte Irvin. I think Monte Irvin is great. He was the first baseball that I got signed to start my "Hall of Famer Signed Baseball Collection" a few years ago. I was still in college and he was signing at an out of the way Negro Leagues memorabilia store in Metro Detroit for like $15 or 20 bucks. I drove out there in the rain and briefly met and chatted with Monte Irvin, who was extremely friendly and just generally loved talking about the game. Monte Irvin is awesome.

Also, he is the only player to have won both a Negro Leagues Championship and a World Series.

Ok, ok. Clock's ticking, got to get back to the Tigers. What were those 4-in-1 Goudey cards made? 1935? Yep. Ok...I'll take One ($60)

Two ($40)

Three ($195) of those. No time to worry about condition.

Man, Dayf was right, as cool as they were, the pictures on those cards were pretty ugly.

Hey, If I'm going to grab that Leaf George Kell, I should really get the gem of the set.

Ooh yeah. Still only $1,500. There's no way I'm going to spend all this money in time. Time to step it up.

Back to 1951 Bowman. Man, these are gorgeous cards.

Willie ($3600)

Mickey ($3500)

No time for The Duke. Is there a Heads Up Greenberg anywhere?

Yep ($600) And you can't have a heads up card without Bob Feller too ($500)

God I'm screwed for time. 1952 Detroit Tigers set GO! Individual cards only--I can BIN on 10 of them for $345 total. Done. On to 1953. 13 of them up for sale for $.99 each! I'll bid $40 on each and just let it play out. I've got like 2 minutes left and money to burn. 1952 Topps Mantle is a clusterfuck of irrelevant cards. Um, Um...

1887 Ginter Tigers GO! Doesn't exist. Shit. What was that guy's name? Getzin? GINTER GETZIN GO!

$199.99 for Chas. Wait...Chas! Chas. Bennett!

$775 to take him home. That's the original A&G Set, mind you. You know...NO THERE'S NO TIME! Arrrrrgh. 1952 Topps set GO

20 Seconds left, and a listing for all the Topps Cards 1952-1980. A buy it now price of a cool...$20,000,000?!?!?!

Well, I've got about $20,000 so we'll just have to see if he'll take a best offer on that one.

Whew! Mission accomplished, Gellman. That very much felt like that Nickelodeon show with the shopping sprees that I ALWAYS wanted to be on. The problem is, apparently, I would have been the moron who wasted time running around to go the the aisles with the toys I wanted most, while some other kid was literally running down every aisle shoving everything into their shopping cart.

I can say this: $50,000 buys you a lot of nice cards. It also seems that it is not that easy to find big lots of older cards (understandably, I guess), meaning you either need to search individually or give up on them, or sift through a ton of cards to get what you want. If I had my druthers, I'd have gone after all the Topps Tigers cards, but they're just too hard to search for in that amount of time.

The real shame is that I only spent $21,639.35 That is FAIL. I blame my lack of knowledge of vintage cards, and my ignorance to when certain players were rookies. Going after HOF rookie cards is a something that I like to do to the best of my ability, but I just didn't have the time to guess and check.

I could have burned some money on newer high end stuff or autographs--and clearly should have somewhere--but those cards just don't appeal to me in the same way. When it comes down to it, is some $5,000 new card cooler to me than something I got for a couple hundred bucks from the 1930s? When push comes to shove it's just one more card in the collection.

So I'm just going to call self-sabotage on this whole endeavor, with my brain insisting that I not inflate the size of my collection--which I'm already trying to make/keep lean and mean--by telling me: "if you can't think of it off the top of your head, it's not worth having."

Which is so not true...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Turning Country Time into Minute Maid

aka Turning Lemonade into...Better Lemonade. You come up with a better phrase for turning a good situation into a better situation.

Anyway, that is what I am dubbing the latest development with my collection. As you might recall, I recently initiated the break-up of my Granderson collection through the sale of two cards. One of these was an autographed 1/1 printing plate that I had always kind of liked but would have spent its days in a box never to be looked at or admired. Also, it was ugly. So, I traded it.

Sure, I sold it, but it basically amounted to a trade and my return card came in the mail yesterday.


For This:
2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers #ROA-AK Al Kaline Autograph

I'd say I got a pretty good deal.

I also think that that card will fit nicely alongside these in my new Heritage Auto/Relic collection:

Yessss. The Plan, she is progressing nicely.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Card Cameos: Cecil At Home Again

What do you do when you are really, really busy and want to write a blog post but just can't pull something together? You thank the good lord for making other bloggers.

On Tuesday, Night Owl posted a fabulous write up on horizontal cards from the modern era. Apparently, he and I share the same general thoughts on these sorts of things. Essentially: horizontal cards are awesome.

In the course of his post he includes not one, but two wonderful Tigers examples, including the 2008 Stadium Club Card of Gary Sheffield that would likely have been my favorite card of All Time if it included The Whale Building instead of the stupid Verizon ad that covered it up.

But that wasn't it. Also included in the post is a beauty of a Card Cameo featuring the Big Daddy himself:
1993 Upper Deck #117 Lance Parrish f/ Cecil Fielder

How have I never seen this before? It is outstanding. I think I like it even more given Cecil's illustrious history as Cameo Card Play-At-The-Plate subject. It's as though this shot finishes the action generated in the Fisk card, two years later.

Still, even without the context of the other card, this one is a beauty for two reasons. The first is best left to the Night Owl himself:
Cecil Fielder peaking through the wickets makes the entire card.
He's right. It does.

Second is the actual subject of the card--none other than former Tiger great Lance Parrish in his first of what would be four stops in three years post-California Angels. He was actually traded to Seattle mid-season in 1992, which is when this shot was taken, only to end up on Cleveland for the 1993 season. In other words, this card was outdated before it even went to print. Still, could you turn down the opportunity to use that photo just because of some inconvenient reality of the player no longer playing on that team? Me either.

I always loved Lance Parrish when he played for the Tigers or, more specifically, I loved Lance Parrish's history as a Tiger, much of which occurred before I was old enough to follow baseball closely. This led me to be a big Parrish fan in my early collecting years when he continued his All-Star career with the Angels. To see the world of former Tiger great and current Tiger great collide--literally--is just too much fun.

Lastly, I love the ambiguity of the umpire who, with arms outstretched appears as though he is could be making a "safe" call...but who has the body position and tension that almost certainly indicates that he is winding up for a theatrical "OUT!" Umpires need their day in the sun too, you know.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Grand Scheme Has Fewer Than Nine Lives Left

Cardiac Cats If you haven't heard it before, you're about to hear it over and over for the rest of the season. I will use it sparingly, if at all. Still, the Tigers have somehow taken a number of shockingly inept performances, flipped them over at the drop of a hat and come out in the win column.

Somehow, this has resulted in a 6-2 record that could (should?) be 4-4 or worse. Not that I'm complaining. But if anyone has dreams of a November playoff run, I recommend taking things a little bit slower. Clearly, the team is showing a penchant for Michigan State-style inexplicable wins where you watch and say, "man this team isn't very good" yet they somehow happen to pull it out in the end. I hate Michigan State. But, I really like the Tigers, so as long as they keep winning, I won't complain.

But he's your Closer The Core Contrarian directed me to one of Rob Neyer's tweets after the Tigers' improbable late-inning come-from-behind victory. Neyer's take:
Just to put this one to bed...Royals had 5-0 lead in the 7th, wound up losing by 1 run, and their only good reliever never threw a pitch.
Spot on. Craig Calcaterra says pretty much the same thing, and adds this insightful line:
You do realize, don't you, that games can be "saved" even if it's not a situation in which a "save" is awarded, right?
The underuse of good pitchers in high-leverage situations is one of the biggest operational inefficiencies in the game today, IMO. Soria should have come in to stop the bleeding. However, that does beg the question of who pitches the 8th and 9th once Soria has to leave? I mean, someone in the Royals bullpen would have had to come in, and could have blown things just as easily.

For his part, Jim Leyland thinks that the Royals bullpen is full of good pitchers.

Willis Do you read the internet? If you do you've probably encountered an overwhelming response to Willis' underwhelming, at best, performance. Neyer is awaiting full implosion ?and defines a new term: Disaster Start. Aaron Gleeman at NBC says he was "meh" against the Royals, which means "ugh" against anybody else. The local guys are in on it too. Henning describes the weak performance and emotional toll it takes to go through it each outing. Bless You Boys and the Detroit Tigers Weblog both comment.

The take away is this: Dontrelle has not been very good, but has performed adequately as a 5th started. 99% of everybody expects that even this is not sustainable.

My take on it is basically the same, but my mind was sparked by something I saw last night:

5 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HR
5 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR

Guess who these pitchers are. Here's a hint: the second is Dontrelle Willis.

The first? Nate Robertson.

Now, this doesn't mean that Willis is going to do any better or that keeping him in the rotation was the right decision or that trading Robertson was the right decision. It just means that whether Willis or Robertson or some other replacement level pitcher, you're going to get what you're going to get. At the point when Willis cannot consistently produce a line like this, he will be replaced by someone who can. Until that point, your 5th starter is a 5th starter and you just hope to win as many as you can when they're out there.

The Staff Not that this is really worth anything, and it is already a week old, but I found it very interesting that the Tigers' pitching staff is, on average, the youngest in the major leagues. Their elder statesman is 28-year old Dontrelle Willis for pete's sake. Sure, Willis and Bonderman are unknown commodities, but considering that they are the two most likely candidates to be replaced mid-year or after the season, it seems as though the rotation will only get younger and better as the team moves forward. That's good, good news. This is a staff has a core that has a chance to be dominant for the next 5 years.

For the investor in you The Cardboard Connection is profiling the most valuable cards for each team. Today it was the AL Central's turn. The result is something that is entirely unsurprising. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Austin Jackson and Rick Porcello are the "hottest" cards out there. ALL of them, without exception, are rookie cards. And all but one (a 2000 Topps Chrome Traded Rookie of Miguel Cabrera) are autographed. Oh, how the times have changed.

Misc. Target Field opened up and has some nice statues that are now ubiquitous at MLB parks. Of course, the Comerica Park statues still rank at the top of the list (ok, #2). Josh Wilker, who just wrote Cardboard Gods--a new book about his life through the lens of baseball cards that has gotten a lot of attention from Neyer and the like, just posted his thoughts on 2010 Topps. They're pretty and action packed! Maybe a little too pretty and action packed. Curtis Granderson is tearing it up already: .357/.419/.607 with 2 HR and 4 SB. Go Curtis!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tigers Gallery Checklist: 2010 Topps Attax

I get what Topps is trying to do with Attax. Create an inexpensive set loaded with stars and use it to create a game in the vein of Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic: The Gathering or whatever the kids are playing these days. It's not a bad idea, really. They already wised up and started selling the cards as "Starter Packs" and "Booster Packs," so to speak. They've created special cards that have better numbers and are more potent in the game. On the surface, it seems like they're at least in the ballpark as far as the formula is concerned.

Call me a cynic, but it falls flat to me. As baseball cards these are nothing worth mentioning. The cards are pretty plain, don't have any numbers on the back (a pain for collectors like me who like things in order) and just don't have much going for them. The addition of the game elements detracts from the aesthetic as cards, IMO. What's more, Topps decided that their "Code Card" inserts needed a big ugly code box on the FRONT of the cards, which was a horrible, horrible choice. To summarize: Topps Attax baseball cards are lame.

But how about as a game? Will this actually appeal to kids? I'm not so sure. It seems to me that the kids that are interested in baseball are interested in baseball cards. Their cross-media stimulus is baseball, either in person or on tv or whatever. This is fundamentally different from the Japanese card games which seamlessly align with TV Shows, Action Figures and even movies. Not to say that the two don't have similar underpinnings, but it seems like the Japanese card games add a different element to the shows: they can invent characters and give them more dimension through the games and cross sell and market etc. Read this awesome "11 points" post on He-Man (of which I collected as many of its action figures as I could get my hands on and still remember them to this day. They were so awesome.) to see what I mean. On the flip side, baseball is already a game. Creating a game based on a game just doesn't seem like it enhances the experience in any way. Maybe I'm wrong. I haven't played the game.

Anyway, this gallery is what the Topps Attax cards are like. It gets a "yawn" from me, but maybe this will appeal to the youngsters out there. I can already see that Topps is pushing this HARD through in-game giveaways etc. Your Tigers:

Base Set Small base set, Granderson already photoshopped out, but otherwise good player choices. Interesting to see that Cabrera has similar "numbers" to Ordonez despite being the vastly superior player.

Miguel Cabrera

Brandon Inge

Magglio Ordonez

Rick Porcello

Justin Verlander

Inserts Just a few, and they get bonus points for 1) Being shiny and nice looking and 2) featuring different pictures than the base cards. The Code cards are Horrible, but the silver, gold and sepia foil (really, sepia foil cards? Is that a contradiction in terms? Sepia isn't really a color, but more of a warming, classic tone. I'm sick of things being called Sepia. /digression) are all nice looking. Plus, they "power up" your player to better stats in the game! Wooo!

Justin Verlander Code Card

Miguel Cabrera "Hot Streak"

Justin Verlander "Superstar"

Ty Cobb "Legend"

Topps Attax "Battle of Ages" This is actually a separate release from Topps Attax that came out later in the year. It serves as a "booster" pack of sorts and features new players and cards that can be seamlessly integrated into the Attax game. There are two Tigers in the set:

Ty Cobb

Justin Verlander

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Break Up Has Begun


I'm not sure if that is exactly the right word, but my feelings have alternated been that and regret. Maybe not regret per se, something a little less strong. How about a nostalgic pang of some sort. I have officially begun the break-up of my Granderson collection.

I joked about this at the start of the month, but I really was serious, to a degree. Recall "The Plan," if you're so inclined. Late last week, I overcame the barrier that was having never sold a card on eBay and listed this little guy for sale:

It sold last night.

I also decided to play around with some things as "BIN/OBO" listings. I put together a complete set of 2008 Triple Threads Autographed Cards. For the moment, it is still listed up there. I also tossed up an Autographed Printing Plate from 2007 UD Black, that I took a shining to at the time despite the fact that it is, in fact, ugly.

That 1/1 sold between the time I went to bed on Saturday and woke up on Sunday.

And with that, the selective dismantling of everything that I've built over the past three years has begun. There goes that nostalgia again. But I do think that it is a good thing. It is nice to see a paypal account with something greater than $0.00 in it, for one. It's nice to feel like I have the freedom to look around eBay and actually buy *gasp* other cards that I might like or could be used to expand the rest of my collection.

So far, I haven't made the leap to list any cards that I really like or have a major attachment to. Maybe I never will. For now, I've just dipped my toe in the pool, but I've got to say, I'm getting used to the temperature.

Friday, April 9, 2010

For the Rest of Us

With all the hype surrounding Opening Day, it's easy to forget that 1/2 the teams in baseball haven't had their Opener yet! Among them, my beloved Detroit Tigers and my hometown Baltimore Orioles.

Rick Porcello starts the home opener for the Tigers, and while I won't be there, I'll be keeping close track of the end game on the big board in Camden Yards this afternoon (and probably watching the start in one of the bars prior to the game).

So, for the rest of us: Enjoy your Opening Day!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sometimes It's Worth The Wait

At the start of the year, Topps passed on some information that they were going to be running a continuity program that featured cards of star players with big MLB Logo Patches on them. Fine. The first ten of those could be found in Topps Series 1, and then the rest of the releases would get some here and some there, but with no real word on where everything would be. Well, the first Tiger in the set has found his way into our hearts, via Topps Finest:

2010 Topps Finest #LM-25 Miguel Cabrera

ooooh. Sometimes things are worth the wait.

Kind of like facing an opposing team's lights out closer and going down 0-2 before fouling off a ton of pitches and finally hitting a game-tying home run off the foul pole after a 10 pitch at bat with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. Right Miguel?*

*Or hitting a go ahead home run in the 10th inning off of a team's lights out closer to put your team ahead for good, right Curtis?

Some things are just worth the wait.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Get Those Men A Baseball Card: Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore

The Tigers kicked off their seasons with a come from behind win over Zach Greinke and the Royals, in a matchup that lived up to its billing, until Justin Verlander kind of fell apart. Then it was just Greinke at his finest until, well, he was taken out before the 7th inning and the Tigers scored 6 runs. The lesson here is this: to beat Greinke is to not have to face him.

From a Tiger standpoint, the game was notable for two reasons. For one, it is their first Opening Day win since 2006 (HT to Bless You Boys for that one). Yes, that 2006. Second, I caught on the radio broadcast that this was the first time that the Tigers had two players that were both making their major league debut on Opening Day. Back then it was none other than the dynamic duo of...Deivi Cruz and Bubba Trammell. (Mega burn from the radio booth: "You'd like to forget about those two." Ouch.) Well today we had two more: 2B Scott Sizemore, who has worked his way up through the Tigers system and CF Austin Jackson who made his way to Detroit in the Granderson deal.

Against Greinke, it seemed like they were going to be in for one of those "learning experiences," like when you learn how to walk slowly back to the dugout, or how to unbuckle your knees or how to unfreeze yourself etc., and it certainly seemed to start out that way. But in a world where they had to face regular Major League pitching instead of the second coming of Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown (and his ilk), the kids were alright.

Scott Sizemore, for his part, took a walk in the 7th advanced to 3rd on a single (From Bless You Boys: "(What is he, a Twin? Are other teams allowed to do it, too?)" Great Quote.) before Austin Jackson ripped a double to drive his fellow debutante home. WOTS was that Jackson also threw out Jason Kendall at home, but I was driving home from work at that point and's site is apparently in low bandwith mode or something, so I can't get any video--not like if I could embed MLB video even if I had it...grumblegrumble MLB grumble. Anyway...

It's debut performances like this that prompt me to scream from the hilltops "Get That Man A Baseball Card!" To some degree, it seems like my calls have been preemptively answered:

That sweet little number comes courtesy of 2010 Topps Pro Debut a set which, I am not ashamed to say, I like the looks of a great deal. You know, it wasn't so long ago that futures cards like this were included in regular Topps sets, and he is wearing a Tigers hat in the picture, so this is pretty darn close. Still, now that he is the present, and not the future, I'd like to see a "Big League" card for Scotty.

As for Jackson, he's got a Pro Debut card as well--an insert commemorating his appearance in the AAA All Star Game--but it shows him as a minor league Yankee. No thanks. Tigers card please. (As for 2010 Pro Debut, I should have a gallery up in the next couple days)

If I had my druthers, these would be two no-brainer inclusions in Topps Series 2, and my guess is that if Topps is in the business of making money, that they're on the same page (remember, Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry got the Series 2 treatment after making the Opening Day Roster last year).

And while we're at it, let's get a little "First Tigers to Make Their Debut On Opening Day..." combo card to commemorate this historical footnote--as long as you can promise me that in 15 years we won't be saying "Wish we could forget about those guys."