Grand Cards: May 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

USA! USA!













Yes, I know that these are all "commemorative 4th of July edition" cards, but this is a National Holiday you know and these just came out. Also, I can't believe how many of them there are. As far as I can tell, this is all of the Tigers in the set, but you never know what else might pop up.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Trails: Dontrelle Willis

So, um yeah. Apparently I can unintentionally predict the future. On Friday, I had a brief--some might say tounge-in-cheek, others, distasteful--tribute to actor Gary Coleman. The premise was simple: show a card that pretty much only says "Willis" as in "What'choo Talkin 'Bout Willis?" and for that card to be a mini card, as commentary on Coleman's diminutive stature.

The only text in the post was RIP.

In what now appears to be grim, if not overdramatic, foreshadowing, Dontrelle Willis was designated for assignment by the Tigers barely more than 24 hours later.

2009 Topps: Team Factory Set #DET8 Dontrelle Willis

Willis' time in Detroit was troublesome from start to finish. I won't go into the statistical details, but suffice to say that it was so bad as to convince my wife's boss that the Tigers trading for Dontrelle Willis will go down as the worst trade in Tigers history. The problem was the trade was perfectly fine, it was that 3-year, $29M contract extension given before a seemingly declining Willis had yet to throw a pitch in the Old English D.

Dombrowski fail, I'm afraid.

Even with a comeback this season--if pitching at a serviceable, if below average level can be called a comeback, the writing was on the wall. After his underwhelming start on Friday, Tiger fans with the power of the "publish" button were on it:
Clearly, when the Tigers decide to get Max Scherzer back in the rotation -- that can't come soon enough -- Willis must be removed from it.

I feel like I've written this post before. Well, the Willis half of it, anyway.

But it needs to be said again and again and again because it happens again and again and again. The Tigers give veterans far too many chances to repeatedly fail even if better options are out there. It cost them last year when they came up a game short. It'll cost them again.

Right now, the people who are sick and tired of Adam Everett and Brandon Inge are nodding their heads in furious agreement.

If the goal this year was to spend a lot of money -- they've got that part down -- and compete to win the division, it's a successful goal. If the goal was actually to win the division, the management of the club has to stop playing veterans who have a track record of failure.
That was Bless You Boys' Friday Post-Game

BigAl, under the Bless You Boys' banner, then put up a whole post about why Willis needs to go when Scherzer gets the call.
Yanking the D-Train before he can do any more damage to the Tigers' playoff chances is the logical thing to do. But when was the last time the Tigers did something logical when it comes to monster contracts? Just look back to the Tigers paying the Marlins $9.6 million to take Nate Robertson off their hands. I'm still scratching my head over the move.

Check out the stat line on Robertson's last start. Willis has Nate looking like the next coming of Cy Young...or at least Milt Wilcox.
So, you wanted a servicable lefty... BigAl continues:
Keeping a walk-happy, big inning waiting to happen, ├╝ber-expensive failed starter/middle relief pitcher/mop up man on the 25 man roster makes no sense. As no general manager in their right mind would trade even a bag of used stirrups for Willis (and his contract), it means he has to be released.

But Mike Ilitch would have to eat the remainder of what's left of the $12 million still owed to Willis. It's an immense amount of money, enough to make the Tigers' owner gag at the thought. The idea of an 80 year old owner choking to death on $100 bills isn't exactly pleasant...which is why Willis being removed from the rotation may not in the cards.

This was the general consensus. Willis needs to go, but he probably won't because of financial constraints and he'll ultimately stick around too long and when push comes to shove the Tigers are going to be all the worse for it. Except that it seems like we all overestimated the power of inertia in the Tigers front office. Last night they cut the cord.

From the Detroit Tigers Weblog
So my question is, what exactly were the Tigers hoping for out of Willis this season? Dombrowski’s comments on the matter are rather gray, and I doubt we’re getting the whole story. Given his entire career arc, I think Willis is pitching as well as could have reasonably been expected.

--snip--

Here’s where I make a logical leap. I hope you can join me because it may be encouraging. Given the Willis DFA, the Sizemore and Scherzer demotions, and the commitment to Brennan Boesch is it out of line to think that the organization is looking to be more swift in swapping out underperformers and maximizing talent on the 25 man roster?

And I think billfer is right on the nose. The Tigers know that they have zero margin of error to field a competitive team this year. Given how last year wrapped up, it is apparent to everyone all the way up through ownership that no games can be conceded in the interest of experimentation. The Willis experiment was a failed one. There was no progress--he seems to have reached his ceiling what was, bluntly, too unpredictable to keep in the rotation.

That's not to say that he couldn't have battled all season and won some games, and even pitched relatively well. He could have. But he also could have imploded any minute. It was like carrying around some dynamite from that ship in Lost and thinking "This Dynamite will save us! We can use it to blow up the...BOOM" How'd that plan work out, former person who is now pink dust? I'll take my chances with the smoke monster, thanks.

The important thing to note here is that it appears as though Dombrowski and Ilitch get it. They understand the concept of "sunk costs" and of "replacement level players" and have seemingly thrown some of the slow-moving decision making processes that have plagued this team for a few years out the window.

There is no room for error. This team is not that good, but are better now without Willis than they were with him. The question is, is that enough?

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Tribute



RIP

The Grand Scheme Feels Like A Giant

The Little GuysI don't know if you're one to peruse the comments around here, but if you were you may have noticed this snippet:
I like the tiny ones the best. I enjoy holding them between my thumb and forefinger and pretending that I am a giant.

That was my wife's partial response to the Anniversary note. Of course, these tiny cards were at the forefront of her mind, because I've recently been blessed with a constant flow of A&G Minis in the mailbox. I decided I needed to backfill some collections, and 2006 and 2007 mini cards were high on the list. When all was said and done I had 22 new minis to call my own. Here's a taste:









I'm this close to being completely caught up with those sets.

The Big Guy A few weeks ago when Ernie Harwell passed the Tigers held a brief ceremony before the game. They also provided fans with a commemorative card--the specifics of which were very unclear when it was announced. Well, my family was at the game, saved one of the cards and sent it my way, where it arrived yesterday. Thanks Dad! I feel like this would look very nice in an understated frame.





For the record, this is roughly cabinet card size. It's pretty big.

The Empire Strikes Back This blog's arch nemesis has struck again, this time infuriating a professional, grizzled blogger to the point of italicizing his frustration for extra emphasis The offending paragraph:
Once upon a time it was Michigan State that got into all the trouble. It was East Lansing where there were stability problems. …

Michigan State is now the regional example for how a Big Ten athletic program should be run. There was a bad mess with November's dormitory fracas. But between Mark Dantonio's reconstructed football program and Tom Izzo's spotless work in making MSU basketball an elite and ongoing force, MSU has become the Michigan of 20 and 30 years ago, while Michigan has taken MSU's unenviable place as the campus where too much bad sports news originates.

...and the italics:
"Fracas"? The number of kids kicked off the team reached double digits! It was the second consecutive year a large group of Michigan State football players descended upon a group of innocent bystanders and heard the lamentation of the women! Just the most recent incident has outstripped the entire Rodriguez era when it comes to player arrests… by a factor of five! Dantonio was directly responsible for the second incident because he let Glenn Winston walk out of jail and directly on to a practice field! This is brushed off in a single sentence!
This is MGoBlog, the blog by which all blogs should balance their blog-scales for awesomeness. The offending writer is none other than everybody's favorite...

Lynn Henning.

Topps Series 2 Series 2 is out and I'm excited. There really seems to be some good stuff in there. Also, not so good stuff:





These are all basically the same card. One is cool. Ten(!) is lame. Dial it down Topps, you've already ruined a good idea.

Also lame: the fact that Justin Verlander (2006) and Rick Porcello (2009) are featured in the "Cards Your Mother Threw Out" insert set. No she didn't. There is no reason that anything after 1980 should be included in this set, much less cards that are less than 5 years old. Another decent idea that went way, way too far.

There's good stuff too, but I'm still wrapping my head around the whole set. I hope to have cards trickle into my possession over the next week or so so that I can give a more complete evaluation.

Misc. I thought, since it's been a long time since a Grand Scheme, that I'd have a lot to say. Not so much, I guess. In links, how about funding a good cause by buying this wrong on many levels Kirk Gibson Kansas City Royals Card? Come on. Do us all a favor.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Special Note

Today marks my second wedding anniversary to my wonderful, beautiful wife. To celebrate, I will be taking the rest of the day off of blogging and state the following:

Thank you for putting up with bubble envelopes
and stacks of cards
and the hours I spend on this blog
and eBay
etc.
and listening when I talk to you about cards that I think are neat
and for humoring me with a smile and a "That is neat" response
and for sometimes actually being interested.

I love you. You are the best.

Happy Anniversary!

Topps Series 2 Trickles In...

Well darn if I'm not excited.





Also seen so far: a Ryan Perry Autograph, which appears to be an ON-CARD signature in the place where the sticker would normally go, which is odd.

Rick Porcello has a "Peak Performance" jersey card, and a blue parallel of that card numbered to 99 copies--seemingly similar to the "Career Best" and "Career Best Platinum" cards from 2009 Topps Series 2.

I think its safe to say that early returns for Tigers fans are good. My team set has been ordered ($1.25!) and I'm very excited to flesh this set out over the course of the week.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Cardboard Banana Tree

Hot on the heels of Austin Jackson's Major League Baseball cards debut, eTopps comes through with a card for Basho himself:

2010 eTopps #16 Brennan Boesch (#/749)

Boesch is the "Restricted Rookie Offering" of this week's new eTopps cards. The cards will (theoretically) be available through Thursday, at a price of $5.50. There will be 749 copies of the card made available.

Again, this is an eTopps card, so some of the luster is missing--the card doesn't actually exist yet, for one--but Austin Jackson followed his up with a card in Bowman, and is in Topps Series 2 as well. Is Basho soon to follow? If not Topps Series 2, can I get a Red Hot Rookie?

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Time Has Passed

The news that Jose Lima--"Lima Time"--passed away yesterday took me surprise while I was drinking my coffee this morning. How old was he? Was he sick? Accident?

Or how about a terribly sad situation in which things feel wrong and you die in front of your wife:
The cause of death was ruled a heart attack, his wife, Dorca Astacio, told espndeportes.com.

"Jose was complaining while sleeping and I just thought he was having a nightmare," Astacio told the site. "I called the paramedics, but they couldn't help him."

He was 37 Years Old.

I remember Jose Lima pretty vividly. When I was a kid my baseball team used to go to games at Tiger Stadium and we would get there really early and go down to the dugouts and try to talk to the players. This was, of course, the mid-90s when nobody went to Tigers games and player access was easy to come by because of it.

Anyway, at this one game we got the attention of Jose Lima in the dugout, and although he didn't sign for us he reached into the HUGE team box of Bazooka Gum and handed us each a pack.

As if I didn't already want to be a Major Leaguer, I now knew that they had unlimited access to enormous boxes of gum in the dugout.

1996 Topps #366 Jose Lima

This 1996 card was the first Topps card of Lima as a Tiger. He was shipped off to Houston as part of a massive trade and went on to have his best years--winning 21 games in 1999--and became one of a list of players that we saw the Tigers get rid of, only to watch them become pretty decent players elsewhere.

The Tigers actually traded to get Lima back in 2001, which meant that we got this in 2002:
2002 Topps#452 Jose Lima

As you can see, his best years were pretty clearly behind him at that point:


Still, he would go on to play in the majors until 2006 and had an excellent season for the Dodgers in 2004, going 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA.

The timing of his death comes on the heels of this:
In 2004, as a member of the Dodgers, Lima fired a five-hit shutout against the Cardinals for L.A.'s only win in the National League Division Series. Lima remained a beloved figure in Los Angeles, often attending Dodgers games. He took in Friday's Interleague game against the Tigers with his son Jose Jr.

The fans gave him a standing ovation on Friday.

Only two current Tigers played with Lima in Detroit--Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago--and Lima's death clearly shook the latter, who was just breaking into the big leagues when he was welcomed with open arms by his fellow Dominican:

"When I got to the big leagues, he bought me a custom-made suit, like immediately," Santiago said. "He said, 'What do you need?' I said, 'I don't have a suit.' He said, 'There's my tailor.' He bought like five custom-made, expensive suits from his tailor."

"I still have them. This is one of those."

By pure coincidence, because Sunday was a travel day for the Tigers, Santiago was wearing one of those suits Sunday morning when he learned of Lima's death. He was also wearing an emotionally shaken face as he entered the clubhouse.

--snip--

"He always took care of rookies," Santiago said. "I will remember him because of the way he treated me. ... He was like a dad for me here. He was the one to take care of me. It's very sad."

It is very sad. Lima was one of those players that you always saw on sportscenter goofing around in the dugout and frequently had a smile on his face. He was one of those good natured players that you would always just hear stories about. He certainly had a joy and passion for the game--an MLB.com article drops the requisite "fiery"--which is how he will be remembered best.

He was no Hall of Famer, no All-Star or "Face of the Franchise." Lima wasn't readily identifiable with any single franchise. He was a bit of a vagabond, an otherwise nondescript journeyman who had a couple good years the way they all seem to. But everybody knew Jose Lima. He was Lima Time. He was baseball-as-fun. He was Manny being Manny before Manny was being Manny.

He was the guy who gave a kid a pack of gum from the dugout.

Rest In Peace, Jose.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Grand Galleries: 2010 Bowman

You may have already read my thoughts on Bowman, so I'm not going to rehash them here. In the 2010 Edition, Granderson has what you can expect all of the Veterans in the set to have. A base card, a slew of a parallels: Gold, Blue (#/520), Orange (#/250) and Red (1/1) and, this year, a 1992 Throwback card. Why are the Blue cards out of 520 instead of 500? Was this just a printing error by the company? Did they want to print the 250s and 500s back to back and just decided to rearrange the letters instead of sub-ing out a "2" for a "0"? I don't know.

I'm not a huge fan of the photographs that they chose for him this year. All around "meh" for me. Certainly not as nice as his 2009 Bowman card, which I like much, much better.

As always, Printing Plates will be added on the back end if and when I find them. There are four of them.







#146 Curtis Granderson

#146 Curtis Granderson Gold

#146 Curtis Granderson Blue (#/520)





#146 Curtis Granderson Orange (#/250)

#146 Curtis Granderson Red (1/1)


Inserts Turning the clock all the way back to 1992...
2010 Bowman #BT80 Curtis Granderson "Bowman Throwback"

This Just In: The Chase Is Complete

Guess what came in the mail yesterday?

2010 Topps #LLR-GB Hank Greenberg/Ryan Braun (#/50)

Just in time for next week's release of Series 2.

You might remember this card from my 2010 State of the Blog Address. It was one of the cards that motivated me out of post-Granderson apocalypse crisis mode and really made me want to turn my collecting up a notch. You know, Diversify, man.

I love this card. A lot of people have a problem with this subset, I think because some of the pairings don't make a whole lot of sense. But this one is great, I actually like the design of the whole set and I feel as though the dual bat is really nicely done.

I guess I'll need to find another card to chase in time for Series 2...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Programming Note

Busy, busy, busy day today--probably nothing going up here.

However, Grand Galleries for Bowman and National Chicle are in the offing, and a Tigers Gallery for National Chicle is pretty much ready to go. That will more or less catch me up on all the releases prior to Topps Series 2 next week.

Also, in Tigers news Max Scherzer killed it in AAA yesterday and the Mudhens are slated to face Stephen Strasburg in his penultimate minor league start on Monday.

Have a good Friday everyone!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tigers Gallery Checklist: 2010 Bowman

When I think of Bowman the following words usually come to mind:

Boring
Obsolete
Uninspired
Irrelevant

That, my friends, is why you shouldn't always listen to bloggers.

2010 Bowman has exploded like Eyjafjallajokull and is showing no signs of slowing down. Just today A Cardboard Problem linked us to non-chrome autos of Stephen Strasburg that have sold for over $700. The Cardboard Connection has been all over it from the start. As they reported, within 48 hours over 100 cards sold for over $85 with high sellers bringing in over $500. With the first week in the books, the Top 10 Bowman sales has the cheapest card--A Jason Heyward Gold Refractor Auto that is numbered to 50(!)--selling for $800. $800!

The Dusin Ackley superfractor sold for $1,150 and the Autographed version for $3,495. The Strasburg Superfractor currently has an asking price of $20,000. Things have gotten out of hand.

Sooz thinks that a confluence of events has led to this Bowman explosion, and I'm inclined to agree. Gellman gives Topps a pat on the back for putting out an excellent product, even though they have an exclusive license on baseball cards.

With Chrome Autographs of Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore, Tigers fans have a reason to be excited too, albeit a more reasonably priced one. Bowman has been, and will always be, about the prospects. That's certainly the case this year. And while this means that some prices have gotten completely out of hand, it also means that more product will be opened, and more base cards, parallels and less coveted autographs--the casualties of case-busting--will be made available for you and me.

Removing our hype-colored glasses, is 2010 Bowman really worth jumping into?

Base Set I'm not one to spit in the face of the hype machine, but we've seen this before, right? Right? Like in 2009, maybe? Look, I realize that the designs are not exactly the same, but come on: black border, red piping (although this year's rookies get Green!), minor modifications. Can you tell the differences between a 1996 Ford Windstar and a 1997 Ford Windstar? Of course not. They're there, but they don't really matter.

We are left with those same adjectives that I'm always left feeling about Bowman. This is another base set that isn't particularly exciting and doesn't really matter. It's the necessary evil of making a set that is really designed to get prospects into our greedy little hands. As in the past, some of the photography is nicely done--Damon and Porcello come to mind--and the checklist is fairly well rounded. In fact, for Tigers fans 2010 Bowman features the first non-photoshopped Tigers cards for Max Scherzer and Johnny Damon and the first major league rookie cards of Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore.

The best part of the set? The Golden Ratio. 9 base cards for you to happily fill a page with. (Super Bonus--the Master Set is a Golden Ratio too! 27 cards if you collect a version of each) Update: with the addition of the Zach Simons Retail-Only Autograph card, the Golden Ratio is blown all to hell and you're left with one hanger-on on a new page







#33 Magglio Ordonez

#115 Miguel Cabrera

#134 Justin Verlander







#153 Max Scherzer

#156 Johnny Damon

#164 Rick Porcello







#198 Austin Jackson RC

#199 Scott Sizemore RC

#207 Brent Dlugach RC


Prospects There are four prospect cards. Boo! That makes Adam Wilk the hanger on. These prospect cards are plain Jane looking but OMGZ! Prospects! Anyway, Casey Crosby and Cody Satterwhite are your legitimate Tigers prospects here and it's nice to see them on cardboard.







#BP20 Casey Crosby

#BP26 Cody Satterwhite

#BP33 Gustavo Nunez



#BP58 Adam Wilk


Chrome Prospects Must buy Bowman...Chrome Prospects... Same checklist, I picked some different colored refractors out for you for some variety. Refractors are fun.






#BCP20 Casey Crosby (Blue Ref. #/250)

#BCP26 Cody Satterwhite (Refractor #/777)

#BCP33 Gustavo Nunez (Orange Ref. #/25)



#BCP58 Adam Wilk (Gold Ref. #/50)


Autographs and Relics These cards are, surprisingly, the sideshow in Bowman, with the exception of prospect refractor autographs. The relics are almost entirely unimportant. Here we have Scott Sizemore's Futures Game jersey (#/99) The autographs have the potential to be dynamite (as we've seen this year) and the Tigers offerings do not disappoint. No Prospect Autos for the Tigers, but I'd rather have Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore anyway. These are very nice cards and feature on-card signatures which is a HUGE plus.

Update: There is a retail-only autograph series of cards, including AA Tigers Pitcher Zach Simons that wasn't included in my original post. These cards are not chrome and have clear sticker autographs, although I will say that Simons' card looks particularly nice to me. Maybe it's his signature.






#198 Austin Jackson Auto (Ref. #/500)

#199 Scott Sizemore Auto (Ref. #/500)

#BPA-ZS Zach Simons



#FG-SS Scott Sizemore (#/99)


Inserts We all know that you don't care about the inserts. Well you're a real stick in the mud. Here's what we've got: cards that are designed after the eminently forgettable 1992 Bowman design (why?), a rather nice set detailing the Top 100 (Topps 100, get it?) prospects in baseball, and a cool front and back card featuring a pro player and his prospect equivalent which is pretty neat.






#BT39 Rick Porcello

#BT47 Miguel Cabrera

#BT68 Justin Verlander







#TP9 Austin Jackson

#TP68 Wilkin Ramirez

#TP80 Scott Sizemore



#BE29 Johnny Damon / Slade Heathcott


Having virtuously blown the hype smoke from your eyes, you are now free to evaluate how you feel about Bowman. The best you're going to do is an Austin Jackson autograph, which I must say is a pretty nice little card. Prospect wise, there is some promise from the Tigers. Personally, I'd like to get my hands on some of the refractors and then run down to Lakeland and teach Gustavo Nunez how to hit.

Bowman is what it is and always has been, not that that's a bad thing. Just don't be fooled into thinking that it was sent straight from the gods to cure what ails you.