Grand Cards: January 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Last Piece of the Pie

When Topps T-206 came out earlier this year, collectors were treated to a very nice framed autograph set for the second year in the row. The Tigers had four autograph cards...and a redemption.

Now I used to be fearful of redemptions. Used to think that if I got a redemption card that my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would never really come. That I'd end up with some crappy replacement card that I wouldn't care about. That it would take forever. So I've avoided redemptions up until this year, when I cashed in three. Now, within a couple months all three have been delivered safely to my home, including this, the last piece of the T-206 autograph set:

2010 Topps T-206 #TA-RPO Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello!

Is this the year for Rick? He's only 22, had a bit of a sophomore slump last year but appeared to rebound well. I think that he makes the leap this year to legitimate big league starter (and hope that our infield's defense doesn't betray him).

Admittedly, this card is not as nice as the other autographs in the set--the solid blue background is in stark contrast to the sunset/ball field backgrounds in the rest of the cards. But, it's also happens to be of Rick Porcello, which makes it the best (2nd best?) card in the set.

But now the real question. What do I do with it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tigers Trade Armando; Rotation Set, But Not Really

Not that this is a surprise, considering he was DFA'd last week hours after signing a $2.3M contract extension, but Armando Galarraga is officially a Tiger no more. The Tigers pick up minor league pitchers in return, which, fine. Call me in five years and ask me how it worked out.

This whole thing has been quite strange. Galarraga, struggled though he did last year (a perfect game aside), was looking like he would compete for the 5th starter spot. Then the Tigers signed Brad Penny, who pitched in a Dontrelle Willis-like 9 games last year, and apparently the competition was over. What we're left with is a rotation that includes Phil Coke, freshly converted from the bullpen, and Brad Penny making a comeback.

Does this seem strange to anyone else? Does nobody feel that maybe, just maybe there is a chance that one or both of those pieces won't work out? It doesn't make sense to have a little bit of an insurance policy in place?

Certainly, somebody thought this, but their math came up with a different result. Basically, the Tigers are saying that one of Furbush, Oliver or Turner (PLEASE GOD NOT TURNER, NOT YET) is a superior option to Galarraga in the event that Coke or Penny doesn't work out. Long-term I agree, but I'm not sure that that's the right way to think about it at the moment. I guess we'll see.

Gus Zernial 1923-2010

Shame on me. I am now the third card blogger to have written something about Gus Zernial, who died last Thursday from congestive heart failure. That response time is unacceptable, especially when I actually have a Gus Zernial card:

Ozark Ike (where do they get these nicknames?) was 87. MLB has a nice writeup that highlights his involvement in bringing AAA Baseball to Fresno.

Zernial ended his career as a part time player for the Tigers, and actually had a pretty good 1958 before his worst-of-his-career-in-all-categories 1959 wrapped things up. Baseball Reference provides the meat and potatoes.

Rest in Peace, Gus. Baseball Card Icon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tigers Gallery & Review: 2010 Bowman Sterling

2010 Bowman Sterling is another quick and dirty set, so I'll spare you the long write-ups and any normal "after the jump" content. Let me just preface this whole post with this: Bowman Sterling costs $223 per box at Blowout, and more elsewhere . A box has 6 packs with 5 cards per pack. 30 cards. Of course, 20 of those cards are "hits." Still, when your best Tigers hit is Chance Ruffin, $223 is just a tad steep. This post will show you ALL of the Detroit Tigers that this could possibly get you.

Base Set I actually like these cards--they are nicer looking than the 2009 version. The Prospect Cards are especially nice with their rounded frame. The best way to describe the set is that this is what 2010 Finest should have looked like.

I'm showing you the Gold Refractors (#/50) here because I think that they really pop and I was somehow able to get images of the whole set, which is usually tough to do for a low-numbered parallel set. Of course, there are base cards, and many flavors of refractor including regular (#/199), Gold (#/50), Black (#/25), Purple (#/10), Red (1/1) and four printing plates.

For an All-Rookie checklist it includes the two must-haves (Jackson and Boesch), a solid prospect that Topps has fallen in love with of late (Oliver) and a player who was so bad in his only appearance as a Tiger that was sent down two days later, was cut from the 40-man roster in November and has been invited to join the Braves for Spring Training. He shouldn't be here.

#5 Brennan Boesch

#8 Austin Jackson

#33 Andy Oliver

#37 Jay Sborz

Not bad, right? Even the regular versions of the cards look pretty nice, a stark contrast from Topps or Bowman Chrome or Finest, where the base cards tend to look dull:

What I don't understand are some of the production decisions. Like, why did they decided to make the purple refractors in reverse?

This is odd and, dare I say, stupid.

Prospects A slightly different design and numbering system for the prospects. There are two--Daniel Fields who is one of the better positional prospects in the Tigers system (and looks like he's put on a little weight since the last time we saw him), and Chance Ruffin, the 2010 supplemental pick out of Texas who looks to have high upside but got roughed up in the AFL this fall. He given the coveted Autograph Prospect card, and doesn't have a non-autographed version.

#BSP-DF Daniel Fields

#BSP-CR Chance Ruffin

Other Stuff Ooh, so descriptive. There happens to be a box topper in this set that is a dual relic of Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. It's pretty sharp--this is the Black Refractor (#/25) version:

For $223 it can all be yours!

Seriously though, if you're anything but a prospect-mad collector, this is absolutely a waste of your time and money. The Tigers checklist is small and decent, but all of these singles can be had for a pittance. I hypothesize that I could put together a full rainbow of the entire team set, prospects and autographs for less than the price of a box. If anyone would like me to test that theory, I'll happily accept donations.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One of these things is not like the other...

Another card off of my Big Ten Wantlist (#4) came in the mail the other day, and it's swell.

This is a Red Back mini retail insert from Target, one of three made of Tigers players in 2010. I think that this one is particularly nice, featuring a vintage looking picture of Hank Greenberg, and an apt card design. I mean:

Greenberg, a two-time AL MVP, smashed the third most home runs (331) by a player in a career of less than 1,500 games.

Other than the fact that I'm not really sure what that means, I can tell you one thing. He deserves an "HR" design for his card.

This one, from Series 2 (I think), is similarly well done:

That's Ty Cobb in a Wal Mart Blue Back, and again we are given a card that makes perfect sense.

In a game during July 1911, the daring Cobb stole second base, third base and home on three successive pitches for Detroit.

Not only is that story awesome, but it ties the whole card together. Another nicely done example.

Then there's this:

Fly Out?

I guess somebody needs to be on the fly out card, but they didn't feel like using Pete Rose? What about Eddie Murray?

Oh well. You can't win 'em all.

Closing Out 2010: Is This It?

Is this it for 2010 card releases? I know it's 2011 now, but 2010 Bowman Sterling just came out and appears to be the last release of the year. Is there any baseball releases that I'm missing here?

My goal is to have galleries of all the sets done before 2011 Topps Series 1 Releases.

Topps Releases
2010 Topps (Series 1)
2010 Topps Heritage
2010 Topps Opening Day
2010 Topps Attax
2010 Topps Finest
2010 Topps Pro Debut
210 Topps National Chicle
2010 Bowman
2010 Topps (Series 2)
2010 Allen & Ginter
2010 Topps Tribute
2010 Topps T-206
2010 Topps Pro Debut (Series 2)
2010 Topps Triple Threads
2010 Topps Chrome
2010 Topps Update
2010 Bowman Chrome
2010 Topps Sterling
2010 Bowman Draft
2010 Bowman Platinum
2010 Bowman Sterling

Upper Deck Releases
2010 Upper Deck (Series 1)

Other Releases
2010 Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
2010 Tristar Obak

Monday, January 17, 2011

Early Morning Card of the Day

2007 Goudey #210 Alan Trammell (SP)

One of the nicest cards of Tram that has been made since he retired, from one of my favorite sets of the last ten years. This card does something that I have learned is exceedingly difficult to do: Make Alan Trammell look cool.

Listen, I love myself some Alan Trammell. Phenomenal baseball player, stand-up guy, should-be Hall of Famer. But very rarely do you think Alan Trammell and think "cool," am I right? Well he is. And this card proves it.

Please allow this card to mitigate your mondays.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Commemorating The Past (Narrowly)

I may be alone in this, but I think that one of the coolest recent additions to Topps' repertoire are the commemorative patches that they introduced in 2009 and have continued in 2010. Unlike other manufactured patches/relics that are inserted as "Case Hits" or other coveted items, these patches are marketed for exactly what they are: fun little bonuses inside of retail blaster boxes.

I just happened to get the last card that I needed to finish the Tigers in the set, which--saints be praised--adhere to the Golden Ratio of card sets and fits perfectly on a single page.

It helps that the cards also (tend to) look great. When done right, the patches really pop out, with cool logos and designs pulled directly from the 1930s and 40s. Right, Hal Newhouser?

That looks like it was pulled right off of a WWII bomber jacket. Just a fun card to have.

Unfortunately, not everything translates into patch form so cleanly.

What, exactly, am I looking at here? This bronze-colored patch with jumbles of black thread to not effectively communicate that we're looking at something that is supposed to resemble the 1955 All Star Game in Milwaukee. The patch says the words "Milwaukee" on it--can you spot them?

Sadly, the Tigers have a mess of these really ugly patches. Al Kaline has two, Eddie Mathews has "two" more and even Hal Newhouser has one. When the whole point of the card is to have a nice patch commemorating some sort of event, it would be nice if the card actually looked cool, or had some color, at the very least.

So, now that I'm on record in favor of these cards and believe that they have been a fantastic addition to Topps Baseball, I feel as though I've earned the right to complain about a couple of things.

Checklist. There are 9 Tiger cards in this set, yet only five players: Newhouser, Kaline, Mathews, Hank Greenberg and George Kell. Why not commemorate events of 9 separate players--I'm sure that there is enough team history to recognize some other All-Stars or World Series performances. How about Kirk Gibson in 1984, Alan Trammell or Lou Whitaker at any of their million All Star Games. Cecil Fielder, anyone? The Tigers' 2006 World Series appearance? A little more diversity would be nice here.

Checklist. I hate to harp on this, but Eddie Mathews, Hall of Famer though he is, played on the Tigers for the last 67 games of his career, spread across 1967 and 1968. They were the two worst seasons of his career. He was presentable in his four plate appearances in the 1968 World Series (.333/.500/.833), but is that really worthy of a commemorative patch? You don't think that, say, Mickey Lolich? Eddie Mathews just seems like a really odd choice here.

Eddie Mathews Man, I feel really bad that I'm still going on about this. This is nothing against Eddie Mathews, per se, but he was really an Atlanta Brave, right? Does he need a patch in this set? Does he need two? DOES HE NEED TWO PATCHES THAT LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME?

I feel like Topps is a victim of its own size. Granted, I don't know how big the company actually is, but there seems to be such poor internal communication that there ends up being hilariously sad product decisions made as a result. Are you telling me that there is nobody in the entire company who questioned the wisdom of making two of the exact same commemorative patches of Eddie Mathews on the Tigers? Just poor communication, it seems, leading to a weak result.

The Hall of Fame paradox... Of course it wouldn't be the first time that such duplicities occurred:

Nice card! Hank Greenberg with a colorful patch commemorating a World Series victory for the Tigers. This is from 2010 Topps Series 1.

This one is from 2009 Topps. Sigh. First of all, the presence of one does not diminish the quality of the other. Other than the fact that I think the 2009 commemorative patches were on cards that were better designed and more attractive, the 2010 one is still fine. It's just, did we need it twice in two years?

Which brings me to something that may be the subject of a full post in the future: The Hall of Fame paradox. Topps is obsessed with Hall of Famers. Other than current players, there have been exactly ZERO Tigers cards made in the last three or four years of past players that aren't in the Hall of Fame. Maybe I'm wrong, and I need to do some more research on it, but at least in the main sets it has been a steady diet of Cobb, Greenberg, Kaline and Kell, with a Newhouser and Mathews thrown in on occasion.

This all seems to me like a symptom of Topps trying to satisfy everyone. The way I see it, there are a few different types of collectors. Those that collect Sets, Teams, Individual Players and Stars. Included in the "Stars" collectors are a subset of people who collect Hall of Famers. The idea is that by including Hall of Famers in the sets the cards will also appeal to the wider range of specialty collectors, whereas a Willie Horton or Rocky Colavito or Virgil "Fire" Trucks would be for the Tigers fans only.

Except I don't think that's true. I think we're not far away from people being sick and tired of the "same old" players in every release. I know that I've reached that point. Did you know that there are more Ty Cobb cards in 2010 Topps than there are of any current Tigers player? And that there were even more in 2009? Does that seem perverse to anyone else?


Boy that was really a digression, wasn't it?

Other than the fact that I wanted to celebrate my completion of this subset, I really do want to say that I think that these cards have been excellent additions to what Topps has offered over the last two years. In all honesty, I think that this is a concept that they could continue to utilize into the future. But man, if they don't start broadening what's being considered for this type of cards, you can count me out.

Tigers Gallery & Review: 2010 Bowman Platinum

Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that's all there is my friend, then let's keep dancing...

Don't blink...

Base Set

#5 Miguel Cabrera

#28 Jay Sborz RC

#50 Brennan Boesch RC

#51 Justin Verlander

#79 Austin Jackson RC

Boom. And that's it. These five cards also have refractor (#/999) and Gold Refractor (#/539) parallels, both of which appear to look nicer than these rather dull, yet paradoxically too shiny, base versions.

While this set is in no way exciting to any Tigers collector--the checklist stinks, the set is too small, the cards are bland--in a way it is refreshing. For one, it is under control. There aren't a billion parallels or inserts or crazy things that frustrate me. That is good. It also strikes me as the type of set Upper Deck used to produce, and has been missing in the market place. A small mid-low end set that is a cheap break for mild amounts of fun.

Not for me though. PASS.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two More Off the Want List

Do I need to change my Big Ten Wantlist from 11 items to 12 before next fall? I think I might.

Big Box o' Goodies included two off the wantlist. I've got a lot of card inventory to take but I hope to have the list fully replenished before the release of 2011 Topps S1. As for the money cards:

#4: 2009 Goudey #204 Jack Morris (SP)--This completes my 2009 Goudey Set!

#5: 1983 Topps #666 Sparky Anderson--When Sparky died I was shocked and saddened that I didn't have this card. It was the only Sparky card I was missing, I believe.

And with that, I can cross two more off the list, and I'm pretty sure that a third is on the way. Woo!

I Am Going to Change Your Life

See this?

That's a big box of cards that I just got in the mail. It's full of commons. Set filler, if you will. Since I got back into collecting I've been trying to back-fill holes in my collection from the 80's forward. My Upper Deck sets, for example, were sorely lacking, and I didn't have a single card of theirs from 1995-2002 or so. I was missing Topps cards, especially Topps traded and couldn't justify tracking them on eBay or digging through box after box at a card show or spending hours on sportslots trying to find everything I needed.

There's also some more hard-to-find needs in there. Some SP's and Inserts from 2007 and 2009 Goudey. Some SP's and inserts from Topps Heritage. More set filler from more recent sets. I actually had to stop myself from going overboard and adding cards from sets that I didn't even collect.

So why, might you ask, is this a big deal?

Because this all came from one site that I just learned about via the bastion of knowledge that is the Detroit Sports Collectors Message Board. The site is called Just Commons and it is run by prolific eBayer "Mr. Mem." The site focuses on everything that I've described and has a very broad inventory. Sure, you might not be able to find the rarest cards there, but for a team collector or set builder, this is hands down the best resource that I've found. The cards are very cheap--almost all older singles are under $.15 or $.20 (many as low as $.08) each and shipping is FREE on orders over $10. The site is extremely easy to navigate, so finding cards is a breeze. I was able to pick up over 200 cards with about the same amount of effort and time that it would take me to find 10 cards on Sportlots, browsing an inventory that feels 100x larger than COMC and didn't have to worry about shipping.

You're welcome.

*This post has in no way been endorsed by "Just Commons" and I have received no compensation from any party to write this post--it is just a damn good deal that I thought you should know about if you're trying to fill holes in your collection. My haul here will most likely lead to a series of posts this week and next that highlight the sets that I was able to complete thanks to this order, so you've got that to look forward to too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brad Penny to the Tigers

Per Buster Olney

$3M deal with $3M in incentives sounds great to me. The Tigers badly need pitching rotation depth and Penny is a nice addition. Gives them the flexibility to put Coke back in the bullpen if need be, or have Armando in the minors for a while. Not a cure-all, but if healthy, Penny could really help this team down the stretch.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

M in the MLB: 2010 Cardboard Round-Up

You may know that I happen to have a passionate love (a passionate unrequited love, recently) for the University of Michigan. In the past, this has led to sporadic posts about Michigan alums and their MLB goings on. One thing that I thought would be fun this year--this is a baseball card blog after all--is to keep track of any U-M baseball players as they make their appearance on baseball cards, in many cases for the first time. So here we go, (in gallery form)!

Major Leaguers Is it sad that the abridged Upper Deck set has more U-M alums than anything Topps put out for the rest of the year?

Jake Fox

2010 Upper Deck #124

2010 Upper Deck #159

Two cards for Jake, both from the illegal Upper Deck set. He's shown here as a cub, but actually started the 2010 season with the A's and finishing it with O's.

Rich Hill

2010 Upper Deck #90

2010 Allen & Ginter #AGA-RHI

Rich Hill has an autographed card in a marquee set that pictures him on a team he never played for.

Sadly, Rich's career appears to be over. He was signed as by the Cardinals last winter, released by June, signed by the Red Sox (for whom he pitched 4 innings), and was granted free-agency and re-signed by them this winter. Whether he actually pitches for them in 2011 is unknown.

JJ Putz

#2010 Topps Update #US-148

The former All-Star had a very strong season for the White Sox, posting in 2.83 ERA (a 153 ERA+!), a better than 4-1 K/BB ratio and 10.8 K/9. It's looking like his 2009 disaster with the Mets was an anomaly, and he's still got some life in that arm. Only one baseball card though--such is the life of a relief pitcher.

Clayton Richard

2010 Topps #456

2010 Upper Deck #417

Somewhat of a Rising Star among the alumni, the former Michigan Quarterback has the second most prolific checklist among active players--three (ok, 2 plus a team set card #SDP16 with the same picture as the regular Topps card) sets.

Bobby Scales

2010 Upper Deck #112

One 2010 card for the feel-good story of 2009.

Chris Getz

2010 Topps #508

2010 Topps Heritage #148

2010 Topps T-206 #151

2010 Topps #PPA-CGE

2010 Topps T-206 ACA-CG

2010 Triple Threads #153

Getz was the real winner this year, coming off of a successful rookie campaign in 2009, he got the full treatment, with autograph cards and all. Heck, he even made it into the high-end Triple Threads, something that I'm sure draws the ire of any collector that bought a $200 box of cards and ended up with a Chris Getz autograph. Getz, despite threads of displacement, seems like the type of player that could hang around the major leagues for a while, although he'll need to improve on the .237 avg. he ended last season with.

Down on the Farm
There are a slew of Michigan alumni in the Minors right now, only a handful of which seem to have a real shot at the show. As is the way with these things, cards are typically made of the best of the 2010 draftees, and everyone else who has been toiling away for years will just have to wait until they make it. Obviously, MiLB team sets and oddball sets aren't included here, just major releases.

Jason Christian

2010 Bowman #BP28

2010 Bowman #BCP28

This is a strange card choice. Christian was drafted in 2008 and despite having a good season in A-ball struggled after a promotion to Hi-A last year. These things take time, of course, but a Jason Christian baseball card seems a bit premature at this point.

Ryan LaMarre

2010 Bowman Draft #BDPP8

2010 Bowman Draft Chrome #BDPP8

2010 Donruss EEE #114

2010 Donruss EEE #7

2010 Donruss EEE #RL

2010 Donruss EEE #8

Not so with Ryan LaMarre. LaMarre is a beast who, by entering the draft, crushed the hopes and dreams of next year's Michigan team. The 2nd round pick struggled in a late season promotion to Hi-A, but sample size etc. Look for LaMarre to have a solid 2011, with AA being the likely destination by mid-season if he can have a good spring.

His Donruss Elite Extra Edition cards are shown here in their autographed versions, but non-auto, and a slew of parallel, versions also exist.

Matt Miller

2010 Donruss EEE #174

Not much to say about the 6'6 righty. He was a good pitcher at Michigan, was drafted in the 5th round and was ok in the Rookie League. He also joins LaMarre on one of the EEE cards. Look for Miller in Low-A to start the season, and hope for a slow, steady progression through the ranks.

And that's it for 2010! It goes without saying that each of these cards comes with a slew of parallel versions, which I obviously didn't highlight here. 2011 does not project to be as strong for U-M alums, but Clayton Richard may solidify his position has a legitimate starting pitcher.

Personally, I'm looking for Zach Putnam to make the leap to the bigs, something that he is certainly capable of doing after dominating AAA at the end of last season.