Grand Cards: August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Obak's Revisionist History

A few weeks ago, when Tristar's 2010 Obak set was released, I was pleased to see a checklist that included more than one Detroit Tiger. Austin Jackson? Good. Hank Greenberg? Gooood. Denny McLain?

Well, cool! Dayf from Cardboard Junkie pulled this little gem in the box he opened a couple weeks ago. I was immediately excited to see a veteran play that wasn't the of the standard Cobb/Greenberg/Kaline/Kell variety. And an autograph no less! A nice card indeed, hampered only by the blank empty stare of a hat without an Old English D.

As someone who likes to familiarize himself with Minor League Baseball and farm systems, I was also really interested by McLain's affiliation. Harlan, in the Appalachian League. Hmmm. How come I haven't heard of Harlan in the rich history of Detroit Tigers lore? Maybe because...
Year Team League Level Aff.
1962 Harlan APPY D- CHW,NYY
Harlan was never an affiliate of the Tigers. It certainly wasn't in 1962, when an 18 year old Denny McLain pitched all of two games for the Harlan Smokies. Two. And is on a baseball card for the Harlan Smokies.

After taking a moment to pick of the pieces of my head that had asploded and putting them back together, I realized that this was fine. That's what funky, old school, mini-heavy, off-brand minor league centric sets are supposed to do. You want a Denny McLain card? Well we'll give you the most freaking obscure Denny McLain card we can! You know what? I dig it. This here is the fun stuff. And, since this is a minor league set, you can do that. McLain pitched for the Harlan Smokies. This is a Harlan Smokies card. This is...
Oof. This 1/1(!) variation was pulled by JD's Wild Cardz, and I'll just let the irony "speak for themselves."

That's one big, bold "DETROIT" you've got there. It also happens to be a really cool story. He threw a no-hitter in Harlan? In his first professional start? No wonder he was promoted to Clinton (MDW) shortly thereafter. Clinton just so happens to have been a White Sox affiliate, which I guess makes sense, since the 18 year old McLain was property of the White Sox.

And if Obak hadn't tried to get all fancy and hadn't accidentally spit in the face of baseball history, I never would have known all of that.  So there you go.  That 18 year old pitcher, who threw a no-hitter for the Harlan Smokies back in 1962 was released by the Chicago White Sox the next year. And he would go on to be the Detroit Tigers' own...Denny McLain, the last 30-game winner in the Major Leagues.  And now you know the rest of the story.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It Angrys Up The Blood

In which I depart from the normal discourse on this site, and eschew the continuing work responsibilities that have mounted all week, to talk about the most significant issue that we, as a people, currently face

The Degree to Which This Is Happening

There is a very real chance that Michigan and Ohio State, upon pending Big Ten division creation, will no longer play to end the season. How real? Real.

...the timing of some rivalry games might change, and that could include Ohio State-Michigan. "I don't know where we're going to end up," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said.

That's from the Columbus Dispatch last week (HT Dr. Saturday. This sentiment was later seconded, and expanded upon, by still wet behind the ears Michigan AD David Brandon in a radio interview last week on WTKA:
SAM WEBB: If you are making the decision, are Michigan and Ohio State in the same division?
[Long Pause]
SAM WEBB: And why?
DAVID BRANDON: Because we're in a situation where one of the best things that could happen … would be the opportunity to play Ohio State twice.
This, edited to remove editorial commentary, set of quotes is from the veritable MGoBlog, in a post citing this issue as a "football armageddon." And he's not wrong. These two quotes helped set off an unprecedented fan and media firestorm that has, somehow, managed to perfectly align Michigan and Ohio State fans towards a common goal. Preserving "The Game."

Yet somehow, from somewhere, a "stay the course" company line has pervaded the Big Ten. The U-M and OSU AD's haven't really backed down. A couple of media folks have said that its a good idea. Even some fans have said, yeah, this could work.

The Degree To Which It Won't Work

The problem is, they're wrong. Visions of 2006--when Michigan and OSU were #1 and #2 heading into their end of the season matchup--are clouding their judgment. If ONE rivalry game is good, the TWO will be an unstoppable force of fantasticness. You know how conversations like this go:
Dude 1: Dude, How awesome is the Michigan-Ohio State game?
Dude 2: Dude, I know. But dude, check this out. If the Big Ten goes to divisions, they can play that game twice!
Dude 1: Dude! Once during the season and once for the Championship!
Dude 2: Dude.
The problem is that this conversation was had by the powers that be within the Big Ten Conference, and not a couple of wasted fratboys waiting in the beer pong line at a house party.

And to their credit, the intuition is there. Having Michigan and Ohio State play for the Championship every year would be awesome, except for three things.

1. It would barely ever happen
I won't beat a dead horse on this, but according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer if realignment had taken place in 1993, Michigan and Ohio State would have met for the Big Ten Championship three, maybe four times. Four times in 16 seasons. 25% of the time.

2. And when it did happen, it would suck
Not suck, per se, as the game would be outstanding, but suck in the way that playing the nation's greatest rivalry game inside of the corporate behemoth of Lucas Oil Field, where there are no home fans, no traditions, no cold weather and literally nothing that resembles anything that is great about real college football, with the exception of the teams on the field. Is that fine for a Championship Game? Sure. Is it a substitute for the Michigan-Ohio State game? No.

3. It castrates the regular game.
Provided the game is moved away from its end-of-the-season slot, it would be a disaster. So the teams would have met in the Big Ten Championship 4 times in the last 16 years? Not the point. However, the Big Ten title has been on the line for one of the two teams for--wait for it--FIFTEEN TIMES. That's Fifteen Times where the winner of the game either wins the Big Ten Championship or prevents the opponent from doing so. In sixteen years.

And if you move the game to October? Zero times. The in-season game loses all importance, and the significance of the rivalry falls in line with Michigan State, or Notre Dame, or Penn State, if you're so inclined--good games all, plenty of bad blood, but not the same. Not even close.

The Degree To Which This is Crazy

Now that I live in Maryland, or on the east coast, discussing the horror that is this possibility is lost on most people, which is what originally inspired me to broach this topic and put it in terms that you non-college football fans might understand:

This is putting the Yankees in the AL and the Red Sox in the NL, and guaranteeing that they will play in Interleague Play every year, in the hopes that they will play in the World Series.

And it is insane. Is that not insane? How is that not insane? It is insane.

For NFL fans, it is like putting the Cowboys and Redskins in separate divisions and then telling them that they still have a rivalry when they play once a year with NOTHING ON THE LINE. You know, the Tigers used to be in the AL East and had really excellent rivalries with the Blue Jays and the Yankees. Those disappeared with divisional realignment. Hey Hockey Fans, how's that Red Wings-Canadiens Rivalry? Yeah, pretty much dead.

I'll take this chance to quote the most appropriate line on this issue that I've read, from AN ABSOLUTELY MUST READ MGOBLOG POST THAT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO DIE WHEN YOU REALIZE HOW STUPID CHANGING THE GAME IS
I have no tolerance for anyone too dense to grasp this, much less see it as a potentially good thing...
The value of the Michigan-Ohio State game lies in the perfect storm of a) long-held, deep seeded rivalry, b)annual championship implications (usually) and c) it's end of season location, wherein b) and c) are inextricably intertwined and a) and c) are inextricably intertwined, leaving c) the lynchpin. MGoBlog again:
For decades Michigan's season has had a certain shape defined by the great Satan at the end of it.

This is where the disconnect between the suits and the fans is greatest. Beating Ohio State isn't about winning the Big Ten, it's about beating Ohio State, just like the Egg Bowl is about beating that other team in Mississippi or the Civil War is about beating that other team in Oregon or any billion other year-end rivalry games that have been played since the Great Depression. M-OSU is the super-sized version of the old-fashioned rivalries based on pure hate.
THE GREAT SATAN AT THE END OF IT. You can't move that to October.

The Degree To Which Advocates For Change Are Right, But Not Really

There is one point that those that think moving The Game and splitting Michigan and Ohio State into separate divisions have right: If they are in the same division, U-M and OSU will no longer play for the Big Ten Championship. Ever. 15 times in 16 years drops to Zero for infinity. And for some, that's a big problem, but I think that it is necessary to look at the counterpoints:

Option #1: U-M/OSU in separate divisions w/ October Rivalry game:
Result: October game has zero title/championship implications, ever, teams could theoretically rematch in the Championship, which might happen once or twice a decade.

Option #2: U-M/OSU in separate divisions w/ End of Year Game:
Result: End-of-season game may or may not have divisional championship implications, one or both teams (or neither) could end up in the Championship game.

Option #3: U-M/OSU in same divison, w/ End of Year Game:
Result: End-of-season game has a high probability of having divisional championship implications every year. No Championship rematch.

#1 is horrible, and where things are trending. #2 is palatable, although the real payoff is in the infrequent championship game. #3 is where its at. Divisional rivals are bitter. Look at baseball. Or the NFL. Those rivalries matter because the playoffs are at stake. It would be the same way in the Big Ten. After the game, one team goes to the championship and one team's season is over--and it would happen with relatively frequency compared with the other options. Split up the divisions and that finality--that satisfying feeling of being able to END your opponents chance at a championship--goes away. Or is, at least, greatly reduced.

The Degree To Which There Is Hope

A Plain Dealer article this morning allowed me to exhale, shallowly and briefly:
Neither Gee nor Smith said they were surprised by the passionate response from fans, though the importance of that game in that spot on the calendar was always an important topic.

“I always knew it was an issue,” Smith said. “I've always had my reasons, but I'm getting additional reasons. . . . Honestly, there are people who are emotional and you know, they're not giving me anything different. They're telling me what I already know. I really appreciate the information from the people who are obviously being thoughtful and are giving me good information. . . . I've gotten models, I've gotten historical data, I've gotten a lot of stuff that makes sense.”


“I think in the division or out of the division, you could play the last game,” [OSU AD] Smith said. “There are obviously warts with both of those. But there's no doubt you could do it both ways.”

Ohio State may be coming around. 90% of the emails they've gotten have been against the proposed change. There is a chance that they will start to throw some weight around. Michigan needs to start doing the same. Hell, even uber-Michigan villain Mike Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press says what we all know to be true:
This game has always been about anticipation, about bragging rights and about a once-a-year referendum on the programs. Sure, sometimes The Game is a one-day playoff for the Big Ten championship. But more often, it means so much because one team had a chance to ruin the other's season at the end -- and salvage its own. That can't happen in a title game, and it can't happen in October, not in the same way.

So hey, join the facebook group or write a letter to Michigan's President and AD. Do the same for Ohio State. Hell, there's a freaking list of everyone who just shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for new suites at Michigan Stadium--you think that they're happy about this? Get in touch with someone over there.

Stop the insanity. Keep the game where it is.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Minus Maggs

The weekend brought with it some sour news. From a practical standpoint it is, in reality, inconsequential, but emotionally there was some weight here. Take it away Dr. Leyland:
"We are all at the mercy on how it is healing," Leyland said. "This year is pretty much done for him, unfortunately for him and unfortunately for us. I think that is pretty much it for him. I think. But I said Brandon Inge would be out six weeks and he came back."

Leyland said the crack was more severe than thought and is at a vertical angle rather than horizontal.
Leyland, of course, doesn't know why a vertically angled crack is more difficult to heal than a horizontal crack. It is not more severe than he thought, it was more severe than the doctors thought. It was more severe than he was told. I'm going to go ahead and blame the writer on this one, instead of continuing to picture Leyland holding up a set of X-rays against the light, smoke billowing around the florescent lighting of the windowless room. "Damn." He grumbles, taking exhaling slowly and the smoke shrouds his face. "This is worse than I thought."

Funny as that may be.

Anyway, that's from the Detroit News. Bless You Boys follows up with a candidate for understatement of the year:
It would be quite sad if the Tiger who gave us the best highlight in two decades has officially played his last game for the D.

"Quite Sad?" I have to believe that it would be more tragic than that. "Major Disappointment" is more appropriate than "quite sad" and even "tragic" almost rings true without being hyperbolic. Almost.

I think that it is easy to forget how important Maggs has been to this club, and its easy to see why. When he arrived in 2005 he wasn't the savior. That was Pudge, who braved (and was handsomely rewarded) to join the Tigers after the 2003 season. Ordonez was a sheep. An also-ran. An add-on.
2005 Topps Prestige Magglio Ordonez

The Tigers followed the pattern that they set forth with Pudge. At the time, Maggs was damaged goods, coming off experimental European knee surgery, there were serious doubts whether he'd be able to play again, much less hit at a professional level.

And in fact, 2005 was a struggle for Magglio. He strained his abdomen at the start of the season, and required hernia surgery, keeping him out until July. He came back strong upon his return, but with no fewer question marks than he had coming into the season.

By the start of 2006, he was just another short-haired,
2006 Topps Finest Magglio Ordonez

2006 Topps Co-Signers Magglio Ordonez

"Professional Hitter" on a team, that seemed full of them. His 24 home run, 104 RBI season helped drive the Tigers to a winning record for the first time in 13 years, and the playoffs for the first time in 19 years.

And it was Magglio, who with one swing of the bat, became an icon.
2006 Topps Turkey Red Magglio Ordonez
To this day, I'm bothered that a baseball card was never made that depicted Magglio Ordonez hitting a walk-off home run to send the Tigers to the World Series for the first time in 22 years. It was the defining moment of a season, and of a generation--mine--that had never really seen what successful Tigers baseball was.

Flash forward to 2007--Ordonez, won the batting title by hitting .363. He had 54 doubles. 139 RBI! And, deservingly, he was given his second consecutive All-Star spot, and finished 2nd in the MVP voting that year. It was his peak as a Tiger, no doubt. And with long locks now flowing, his Gideon-like status elevated him to a new level, to shiny baseball cards that only the true stars get:
2008 SPx Magglio Ordonez

And he lived up to that status in 2008, with another .300+ year, and another 100+ RBIs. Did you know that he was the first Tiger to have three consecutive 100 RBI seasons since Cecil Fielder did so from 1991-1994? Did you?

But the wheels fell off in 2009.
2009 UD Spectrum Magglio Ordonez

His numbers took a dive, along with his bat speed and concentration. It was later revealed that his wife had been battling rather serious cancer, he was booed by his fellow Venezuelans at the WBC for his political views. He was benched by Leyland for poor performance. Then unbenched. The benched and unbenched again. Ultimately, he got so hot in the second half of the season that he helped carry the team into game 163, and saw his big, fat contract option for 2010 vest. There were groans. Overpaid and over-the-hill.

Yet here we are in the exact opposite position one year later, and its seems that everybody has finally realized what we should have seen all along. The Tigers are much, much worse without Magglio Ordonez. Sure, he's not a $15M player any more, and in a sense, his injury spared the Tigers from having to overpay for him in 2011. But just look what his loss has meant this season. The team went into freefall, Miguel Cabrera's torrid place slowed remarkably, and an already tenuous lineup crumbled. Overpaid or not Ordonez was the keystone, and I'm not sure you can put a price on that.

Has Magglio Ordonez played his last game as a Tiger? That's the speculation. But I tend to agree with Kurt from BYB that the Tigers are going to try and bring him back. One option is to pick up his $15M option for 2011. That seems a bit silly, and like punching a gift horse in the mouth. But you have to believe that the Tigers realize exactly how valuable Maggs is to the franchise. Not has been--this would be no charity signing--but still is to the team.

You can make the same argument for Brandon Inge, or even Johnny Damon, both of whom are in the throws of trade speculation. And when you think about it, you realize that there is really no reason that the Tigers shouldn't bring any one of them back. There is no heir apparent, no rising star that they're holding back. The only option would be to replace in free agency, which is effectively what the Tigers could do with Ordonez. Decline the option and re-sign him at a fair rate.

Would he go for it? I'm not sure. Would the Tigers offer? I don't know. But it would be the right thing to do, because it would be the best thing for the team. Challenge time: who has been the best player on the Tigers since their 2003 season? Miguel Cabrera comes to mind, because he is the most talented and has had incredible individual season. But Ordonez's numbers are better over his Tigers career. He has carried this team, more than anybody else in that span. Without Ordonez, the Tigers don't make the playoffs. They don't content year-in and year-out. Dollars over donuts says they don't have Miguel Cabrera right now. That trade would never have been made.

So think about the sad reality that Magglio Ordonez may have played his last game as a Detroit Tiger, and you may wonder, as I do, how in the hell this team is going to get along without him.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hello, Goodbye

In the game of musical chairs that is the Detroit Tigers roster these days, one is back in...

2009 Topps: Gold #UH116 Alfredo Figaro RC

and another is out...
2010 Topps Pro Debut #16 Robbie Weinhardt

Of course, none of this is significant compared to the potential roster earthquake that is currently brewing:
Heard this: Johnny Damon and Brandon Inge are currently passing through waivers. They were placed on waivers Thursday.

Which leads me to a few things:

1. Why were they just placed on Waivers yesterday? As if that Thursday afternoon loss was really the nail in the coffin that the Tigers just weren't going to cut it this year? Shouldn't this have been done weeks ago? Having waited this long the Tigers likely reduced the value of Inge, who could have gone to a St. Louis Cardinals team that sorely needed a third baseman. Unless they figured that the Reds would have blocked that move. Still, it makes you wonder.

2. I have no problem* with letting either player go for something in return. Get a prospect or two and then if you really want them back re-sign them in 2011. I'd be thrilled to have Damon back. I'd be fine with Inge back, provided his salary is in line with his ability. In fact, Trade Inge with a "wink wink, nod nod, we'll sign you in the offseason" type deal behind closed doors. Or grab Adrian Beltre. Either way.

3. *The only problem I do have is this hangs Miguel Cabrera out to dry so much that it isn't even fair. The Tigers have offense problems. Removing two important offensive pieces will make this team more of an embarrassment than they already are.

So do what you've got to do, Dave Dombrowski. If you can get a good return on Damon and Inge take it (see: NOT Kyle Farnsworth for Pudge Rodriguez). We Tigers fans will understand. Then pull out your wallet, because free agency isn't going to be cheap this year.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Small Bonus

2007 Goudey may be one of my favorite sets since I re-started collecting. There's something about the small, yet larger-than-tobacco-sized cards that is incredibly appealing for your base set. Personally, I think that the quality of the Goudey sets diminished in 2008 and 2009 when they went to full-sized cards, and that the "minis" from those years were where all the fun was.

However, I didn't actually collect Goudey in 2007. I was just dipping my toe in the water, and was still blissfully ignorant of the dozens of product options out there. It wasn't until 2008, with my Granderson collection in full swing, that I started picking up the previous year's set. One thing that I'll often do is start collecting just a team set (base set) for a particular release. If I like it, I might go after minis (A&G), parallels (Topps Gold), or inserts or autographs or master sets. Usually I'll begin these quests opportunistically, like when a bargain rears its head or I find that I already have a card that can serve as the lynchpin of the set.

That's kind of what happened to me at the National. I was looking for some cheap game-used cards to see if I could kick off any other side-sets that I wasn't really working on before. Turns out that I can:

2007 Goudey #58 Jeremy Bonderman Game Used

It's in that great Goudey-mini size, and comes with a small bonus, a mini-swatch of jersey inside a mini-G on the front. Is the card absolutely amazing? Well, no. But it's pretty good, even better for $1 at the National and even better because it gives me something to post about today, with Jeremy Bonderman taking the hill against the Yankees tonight.

With this and some of the other minis that have made their way to me recently, I'm starting to ask the question: does anybody make pages for cards this size? It seems like such a waste to fit them in slots made for full sized cards.

No More Cards

Things in Grand Card-dom have gotten crazy. Work is crazy. Travel is crazy. I'm heading back to school in less than two(!) weeks. There are cards EVERYWHERE. I feel like I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached to my neck.

So I've made a decision. I find that with my National card hangover fully gone, and the gnawing desire to pick up a bunch of new stuff getting to me, I need to lay down the draconian rules.

Until I organize and catalog all of the cards that I've gotten in the last month, I will not purchase any more cards off of eBay or otherwise. This is doubly hard, considering there's actually a bunch of stuff out there that I want, but I don't care. Things have gotten that ridiculous.

So that's the plan. I have enough cards to continue posting uninterrupted for months, so no worries there, but if I don't get this card situation under control, and fast, things are just going to snowball from here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 Topps has...Red Parallels

Red parallels?
Red parallels.

This breaking news comes courtesy of The Drizz, who runs the outstanding Totally Cecil blog, but tends to post about other things on the Motown Sports Message Boards.

So, what's with the red?

These cards are Numbered to 299 and found--5 cards at a time--inside of Factory Sets. I'm guessing inside regular factory sets and not those of the team-flavored variety. This makes them a disturbingly tough pull. As Drizz reports, single Tigers are running from $2-15, with Austin Jackson the most expensive, unsurprisingly.

In a follow-up, Drizz notes that these appear to be a one-off, and will not exist in Topps Update form:
topps informed me via twitter that the series 3 cards will not be red paralleled, so i don't think i'll be persuing them. nice to have a couple, though.

Which is serious disincentive to try to go after these from a team-collector standpoint, not to mention that it would be damn near impossible to do.

Still, for the Supercollectors of the world, have fun chasing these suckers down. For what it's worth, I think that they're pretty nice looking and I would be chasing Granderson till the end of days if I were still in the market. Given how long it and hard it is to put together a Gold team set, of which there are nearly 7x as many of each card, I'll have to give these a pass too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two Tigers Walk Into A Bar Mitzvah

There were two non-card items that I picked up at the National. One was a program from the 2005 All-Star game (which I attended) for $5. Collectible Win. The second was the oddest, most fabulous thing that I've seen in a long time.

Imagine a Bar Mitzvah in 1968. Picture it. The horn-rimmed glasses, the avocado colored dresses, tweed suits that look like they're cut straight from the border of a 1969 Topps Baseball card. If you close your eyes, you can picture exactly what this looks like, can't you?

To top it all off, this particular celebration has a caricaturist. I'm sure that you've seen them, at the Bar Mitzvahs you went to, or senior nights or quinceaƱeras. They're there for the kids, who walk home with an oversize print of them with an oversized head doing something that they like. Like playing baseball, or driving a race car or waterskiing on the top of a human pyramid holding the tow rope with their teeth. You know, the normal stuff.

What luck then, that these two guys happened to be at the party:
1968 Tasco Prints Bill Freehan

1968 Tasco Prints Denny McLain

How awesome are these, in a "god McLain is an ugly guy and these are humongous and stupid but I must have them" kind of way? They are 1968 Tasco Prints--basically artist caricatures of great baseball players from 1968 (there is a '69 edition too) done by an artist out of Livonia, MI who somehow wrangled himself an MLB license. They're not just Tigers either, but greats like Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Frank Howard and many more.

Needless to say, I couldn't resist. When I saw these I couldn't help but picture some wide-eyed 13 year old go slack-jawed as he watches his heroes walk into the reception hall on their way home from a game. And then, before he can even say "Hi", watches them get in line for a caricature that they'll take back to the Stadium to hang in their lockers. Maybe McLain throws him a "Mazel Tov" on the way out.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Card of the Year

It took over a month, but what I consider the front-runner for Tigers' Card of the Year has made its way into the "wild."

Pixelated as that eBay screen grab may be, this Miguel Cabrera auto/relic boxtopper is awesome. It also has what I believe to be a very reasonable BIN price of $250, which, as these things go, is not totally crazy.

I mean, it's Miguel Cabrera, with a nice big, on-card autograph, on a great looking card, (with a relic piece that I could take or leave) numbered by hand to 5 copies. Show me a better Tigers card from these year. Go ahead. Anyway, $250 is out of my price range at the moment so I'll just have to file this away under "someday..."

But don't cry for me, folks. It just so happened that I picked up what very well may be last year's card of the year just before the National came to town, and for a bargain:

2009 Goodwin Champions #GCA-AK Al Kaline Autograph

While not numbered, I'm pretty sure that WOTS was that this card was limited to 50 copies. It enjoys the rare combination of an excellent looking card plus a big, crisp, clean, on-card autograph from the greatest living Tiger. I'd say that the only other real contender for the best card of 2009 is this guy, so either way I think I've got it covered.

We'll have to see whether this Cabrera can hold on to the tentative top spot with just under half of the year to go. Could be tough to unseat.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The Tigers are playing their worst stretch of baseball since 2003. Yes, that 2003.

Demons, begone!

Out of Miguel's bat, you vile 1B spirit!

Away from our pitchers' arms, so that they may throw strikes again!

You may NOT induce our promising outfielders to become disappointing failures!


Why these demons in particular? They're a few of the $0.10 cards I picked up at the National. God help us if I actually dig into the pile of cards from 2003...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Luck of the Draw

I'm getting crushed--crushed--at work, and found out yesterday that I need to hit the road for business tomorrow and Thursday before coming back for meetings all day Friday, all while I have a major report due for a client in three weeks that will literally require all of my available working hours between now and then. So, short post it is.

I was pretty lucky with a couple of finds at the National, which just proves that persistence pays off. (I was equivalently lucky in a couple eBay finds recently, which I'll highlight in a separate post). As for my favorite:

2006 Topps Heritage #95 Justin Verlander Chrome (#/1957)

This came from a memorabilia dealer at the national who had a small box of cards on the size of her booth, divided by player. She told me upfront: "see if there's anything you like in there, everything is under $1 and most of it is twenty-five cents." So I browsed--most of the cards were base cards or inserts that I already had or didn't much care for collecting--and then I pulled this out. It's a Heritage Chrome, something I actually collect, of Justin Verlander in his Rookie Year. I handed it over, told her that this was the only card that I was really interested in and she gave it a glance before saying, without hesitation, "$0.25."


Considering that the cheapest you can hope to ever find a single like this online is $.99 plus shipping, I was pretty happy with the take-away. Add-in that this was Verlander's rookie year (Enjoy number 59, rook!), from a set that I actually collect, and this was as good of a bargain as anyone could ever hope for, small potatoes be damned.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Evaluating The National

The National just wrapped up in Baltimore and I'm now about 36 hours removed from spending the entirety of my Saturday on the convention center floor. That means two nights of sleep for reflection on the good, the bad and the intangibles of the National Sports Collectors Convention.

What's There
If you've been to the National before, you've probably had this feeling: I'm going to go to the biggest card show in the world to do two things: 1. buy some cool cards, and 2. Find Card(s) X that I haven't been able to find anywhere else, which should be easy because this is the biggest card show in the world. See: Beardy's thoughts on exactly this type of thing.

Well, I can tell you that (1) is incredibly easy to accomplish. There are cards everywhere. So many cards. Some on display, some in boxes you have to pick through, and just about everything that you've ever heard of is at some dealer's table somewhere. But herein lies the paradox of The National, it has, simultaneously, a great selection of cards and a limited selection of cards.

By this I mean, finding any specific card that you want, while not necessarily a futile effort, will take you so much time, that it almost isn't worth it at all. For example, I knocked off exactly ZERO cards from my "Top 10" wantlist. Yet I was able to get a ton of cards off of more general wantlists (set filler).

The name of the game at the show was Vintage. From the moment you walked in, the old cards where everywhere. I got halfway through the building before I found someone selling any modern stuff. Ultimately I got my modern fix in two places: one dealer who had budget GU and Auto cards (50%-90% "off"), and my favorite, the guy with the 10 for a dollar boxes from the 90s and 00s. At both places, I knew that I was benefiting from buying in quantity and that I could never come close to matching the selection and prices online once shipping was factored in. They were one stop shops. It wasn't until I got home and saw one of Chris Harris' videos that I learned the 10/$1 guy also had serial numbered cards for $0.50. I immediately regretted not spending more time there, as he probably had exactly the type of cards that I was looking for. Still, when you end up with these for thirty cents, and 47 others to go with them...

...Things are ok, indeed.

But back to the Vintage. The problem that I have with vintage is that I don't know what fair value is (I don't look for Vintage singles on eBay), and the ranges for cards seemed ridiculous. Towards the end of my day I focused in on two dealers--one with a 25 card pre-1976 deal, and the other who had his vintage cards in binders--I bought a smattering of cards from the late 50s through the early 70s for between 40% and 60% off...


Which is actually something I had to ask about. 40% to 60% off what? Why, Beckett value of course. In the course of my everyday life, I pay exactly no attention to beckett pricing. I don't look at price guides and I don't have an online subscription. I gauge everything on where the card has sold on eBay before, or, if there are no previous sales, where comparable cards have sold, and then I marry that with my thought of how much I would be willing to pay for the card. It is a good system, and it works. But the book prices, I don't know anything about that. It wasn't until I realized that I could get some '59s that looked pretty nice for $2 a pop, or some 60s commons--also in better shape than anything I had in my collection--for $1.50 that I saw the good deal.

As for the big name vintage? Everything felt overpriced to me. Again, I don't know vintage pricing, when I'm seeing Al Kaline rookies running between $200 and $600, then it is not to be this weekend.

That actually illustrates a dichotomy that I noticed throughout the day. There are two pricing options at the National. Really cheap, or really expensive. There isn't a whole lot in between. That's not to say that prices were unreasonable, but rather that things that you would have to pay a pretty penny for if they showed up on eBay were astronomically priced. Things that you'd usually be able to get relatively cheap--$1-5 inserts or GU on eBay--could be had for very little. Score.

The Value
This is the tricky part. Was going to the National worth my while? The easy answer is yes--I got a bunch of great cards and would go back if it came to Baltimore again. But was it really? Let's break it down.

One Day Ticket: $17.50
That's the out of pocket price for a ticket bought in advance, plus convenience charge. It offers one day of admission. It paid for itself immediately:

That's right. The moment I walked in the front door, Dmitri Young was in front of me showing off his collection of PSA 10 Rookie Cards. The collection was truly impressive and people were fawning all over the cards blah blah blah. Whatever. That was Dmitri Young aka the only bright spot on the Detroit Tigers from 2002-2005. Sure, I asked him about his cards ("When did you start putting it together?" "Which one is your favorite") but mostly I chatted with him about his Tigers days, including the Opening Day when he hit 3 home runs and is still one of the best baseball memories that I have. "That day still seems like a dream to me." Me too Dmitri, me too. He pulled his PSA10 Al Kaline rookie out of the case to let me look at, because I was a Tigers fan, talked about his time on the Tigers for a few more seconds and then he handed me an autographed poster and I wished him luck on the rest of the show.

Consider the price of admission paid for, thank you very much.

The Time Value of Money
You economists know what I'm talking about. I was at the show from 11-5 give or take, with no breaks. That's six hours on the floor of the show looking for cards. A normal person would think nothing of it, but from the moment I got home my twisted mind was thinking: "Opportunity Cost."

I wasn't going to be working--it was a Saturday and I had had a long week--so no lost wages there. I could have been spending time with my wife (which has a high value) but also probably running errands and cleaning up the house (a low value). Most likely, I would have been relaxing, and perhaps, I don't know, surfing the internet for cards to buy. Bingo. So that's the big question: was my six hours better spent at the National than it would have been at home, looking for cards online?

I say yes.

1. My neck and back paid the price for 6 hours of digging through card boxes, but my eyes would have quit me for doing the same on a computer. edge: Push

2. I had trouble finding specific cards that I knew I wanted, and was particularly disappointed to find that all of the 2010 A&G minis had been picked through like mad, making a Tigers team set impossible to make. The same goes for other non-vintage sets that I wanted to fill out (Heritage, Topps Gold). edge: Internet

3. I ended up with plenty of cards that I would not have searched for, or found, online for very little money. edge: National

4. I was able to fill tons of vintage holes more easily and cheaply than I would have been able to do online. edge: National

5. I briefly met Sooz and Marie from A Cardboard Problem, instead of twittering with them and others online. edge: Internet. Zing! Just kidding ladies. edge: National

6. No shipping costs, no shipping costs, no shipping costs. Even for modern cards, I was willing to inflate what I would pay by $1-2 in order to compensate for not having to pay for shipping, which usually averages $3 on eBay. This made some bargains appear even better, and made other purchases palatable. edge: National

7. Oh the things you will see. There was so much unbelievably cool stuff there--most of which I will never be able to afford--that had a certain museum quality to it. I mean honestly, some of these dealers can't expect to be able to sell their $50,000 cards. They're just showing off and everybody knows it, which is great for us window shoppers. An added bonus of a show for sure edge: National

In all, I think the show wins pretty easily. I can't continue to help but feel as though I was missing out on some sort of treasure trove of recent cards that I needed--my really cheap refractors and Topps Golds and modern inserts and A&G minis etc.--I'm sure they were there or, at least scattered throughout a number of dealers. Even so, it is more of an argument for going back a second day than for not going at all. In fact, I'd say you need at least two hours just to scout the place out.

Over the next few days I'll show off some of what I picked up, including one of the best oddball pieces you'll see. If you're contemplating going to The National in the future, may my thoughts help guide your way. At a minimum, if you're a day trip and GA Ticket away there is no reason not to go.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Curse Of Kenny?

Roar of the Tigers--arguably the most enjoyable Tigers fan blog out there, if you're not familiar with it--made a couple post-game comments after another crushing Tigers loss yesterday. One jumped out at me:
–The last time the Tigers and Wrong Sox traded directly with each other was 1989 (according to FSN today). Obviously I approve. We don’t want to be getting our paws dirty, dealing with those foul creatures.

1989? Tigers/White Sox? My internal baseball card database immediately pulled out one and only one possibility from the pile.

(from the awesome Trading Card Database)

Kenny Williams. Current GM of the White Sox. Is this the makings of some sort of curse? Perhaps Kenny is bitter from being ripped from his Chicago home by the Tigers. Or bitter that he was released by the Tigers after the 1989 season. Are the Tigers doomed to failure at the hands of the White Sox until they can successfully make a deal with them again? Is this somehow Eric King's fault?

That was the only trade that the Tigers made with the White Sox in 1989. Move over John Smoltz, 21 years later and we're still paying the price.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What Does It Take To Be A Former Tiger?

A one-off snippet of Tom Gage's daily "Tigers Soup" blog got me thinking:
3. Reasons the Tigers might beat former teammate Freddy Garcia on Thursday - he has a 5.73 road ERA this year and a 5.89 day ERA.
"Former Teammate*." Is it necessary to use that term here? With the amount of wheeling and dealing and late-season call-ups and desperation moves and the like, there are plenty of short-tenured players that have made cameos on one team or another. Would you call or Ivan Rodriguez a "Former Yankee?" Or Babe Ruth a former "Boston Brave?" Of course you wouldn't, even if those statements are technically true.

It's an issue of magnitude, I'm afraid. Any one of us could add facts or snippets that are true, but wholly unnecessary, to just about every conversation we have. For example, I did this just the other night when watching a movie. A preview for "Cold Souls"--a movie with Paul Giamatti--came on.

"Paul Giamatti is great. I really liked him in Lady in the Water."

Right. He was in that movie. But nobody cares. Certainly, nobody remembers him for that reason. The very idea of referencing him as the guy from Lady in the Water is absurd, and therefore funny, which is why I said it in the first place. Of course, it makes it all the more ridiculous when terms like this are used by people that aren't trying to be funny. Sometimes facts are superfluous. That's ok.

But it raises the larger question, back to baseball this time: At what point does a player deserve to be called a "Former Tiger?" I was trying to think of this in concrete terms, like XXXX games/seasons played or something like that, but I realize that the context matters as well.

An injured Freddy Garcia was added to the Tigers to bolster a futile playoff run that, once he was finally healthy enough to play, was over. So he pitched for a few games to try to prove that he was Major League-ready to the rest of baseball. This happened later in his career. He is not a "Former Tiger." Now, if Freddy Garcia comes up through the Tigers system and makes a few starts before heading off to another club, perhaps via trade? Former Tiger. See: Andrew Miller

This is one key distinction. You are a Former Tiger if you started with the Tigers. That's a given. Part of the reason is that it gives fans the ability to piss and moan when you achieve success as a non-Tiger. Carlos Pena, come on down. If you're a mid-career acquisition, it gets a little fuzzier.

If you're a mid-season rental, three things can happen: You are terrible, you make no impact, you are stupendous. Examples: Jarrod Washburn, Freddy Garcia, Matt Stairs.

Matt Stairs is a "Former Tiger," because fans can take pride in what he did as a Tiger in 2006. He is not a "Former Tiger" to the media at large, because, come on. However, it is appropriate for the following to occur:
Person 1: "I just heard the other day that Matt Stairs..."
Tigers Fan: "Ahem, Former Tiger Matt Stairs."
Person 1: "What? Whatever dude. Anyway, Matt Stairs..."
Again, it's mostly a humorous device. Still, there is a clear distinction between that and say, Tom Gage using "Former Teammate" today.

Of course, there is some gray area. We've already established that someone who made an impact on the Tigers can get credited as a "Former Tiger." And that someone who saw success and notoriety after his Tigers career may deserve the label too. But what about this:

Aubrey Huff was a half-season rental who was horrible for the Tigers after having a pretty solid career up to that point. In Detoit he fell off a cliff. The next season (this season) he is tearing things up in San Francisco. Clearly, the Detroit stop is blip on the radar. Does he get former Tiger status? I say yes, but only in certain situations:

Tigers Fan: "Can you believe the year Aubrey Huff..."
Person 1: "I think You mean Former Tiger Aubrey Huff."

Use at your own peril.

Suffice to say, the using the "Former" label is more art than science. Context matters. Context of the player and context of the comment. It's like being a native speaker vs. someone who has just learned a language. If you're a native speaker you know when something sounds right. That's how it works. Meanwhile, someone who has learned a language, may say something that is true and correct, but just sounds odd to people used to the language.

Like "Former Tiger" Freddy Garcia.

*I know that "Former Teammate" and "Former Tiger" are substantively different terms and that Gage said "Teammate" and not "Tiger." However, in this context the two mean the same thing and are interchangeable. Former Teammate only matters when referring to players who were teammates elsewhere and opponents now after one joined the Tigers, like Miguel Cabrera and Josh Beckett (sorry, that's the best I could do off the top of my head).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Call for National Advice

Ok. So the National starts tomorrow right here in Baltimore. My life is such that the first (only?) day that I'll be able to go is Saturday. Maaaaybe Sunday. But probably not. Now, for those of you halfway across the country who gasped, or maybe chocked on a little bit of food and are now indignant that here I am, blessed with the National Sports Collectors Convention right with my own back yard, and I can't even be bothered to attend the show for more than one day...I'm sorry. I wish I could, but I can't.

And this, my friends, is what puts me in a bind.

You see, my card show experiences are, how you say, limited. I'm pretty sure that I went to a card show once when I was a kid, for like an hour. I remember going, being there, and then not being there. Impactful stuff, that. Since then, I've attended the Daily international card show that is eBay and literally nothing else. I'm a card show n00b. I predict that I will do foolish things. Or overwhelm myself. Or ultimately find some way to get the least amount possible out of my limited time at the National. And that's where I need your help.

For those of you who have been to The National, or other grizzled card show vets, can I create a strategy to make the most of it, or is it "Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here" from the moment I step through the door? How about this. Here's my plan. If you know how card shows work, please pick holes in said plan and give me better advice.

If you are actually at the National and feel like doing some advance scouting prior to my attendance this weekend, that could be a kind of awesome way to narrow down the booths for me. If you're up to it.

The Plan
I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that "wantlists," while good in theory, are going to bog me down. (please tell me if I'm wrong here and wantlists are, in fact, crucial and necessary) There are some things I know I don't have. There are other things that I know I do have. For the grey area, it will be a game time decision. So, going in, this is what I'm looking for (all Detroit Tigers):

  • Refractors
  • 2010 A&G Minis
  • Pre-1970 Topps
  • Really old cards

If circumstances warrant, I'd like to knock out my Topps Heritage needs, and my other A&G mini needs.

So. Tips? Tricks? Advice? I'm pretty sure that I'm in over my head on this one. Also, I will most certainly need a drink at some point this week, and somehow

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Grand Scheme Is Suspended

On Hiatus Usually the titles I choose for "The Grand Scheme" are oblique references to something related to the Tigers or card collecting or what have you. This time it is much more literal. For the time being, I'm going to hold off on producing new "Grand Scheme" posts. This will come as a major disappointment to some of you, including my lovely wife who, in addition to helping me sort and pack the thousands of cards from my giveaway, has told me that "The Grand Scheme" posts are by far her favorite on the site. And although her vote counts for like, 10,000 votes on this sort of thing, my vote counts for like, 10,005. Sorry, babe. Barring some modicum of reader sentiment towards me keeping the Grand Scheme right now, I'm putting them on hold.

But Dan, no! Whhhhhhhhy?

For one, they take a lot of time to put together. A lot of internet scouring and reading and quote selection and such as. In the last month or so, my work schedule has gotten increasingly hectic and I just haven't had the time to devote to these as I would have wanted. Also, in a month I'll be starting Grad School, and with work showing no signs of slowing down I'm expecting a major time crunch.

For two, this baseball season is killing me. The Grand Schemes are fun because they allow me to comment on the Tigers, collecting and the baseball season in general by recapping what's going on in the greater scheme of things (get it?). But with the Tigers' season sinking fast, there's not a whole lot more of analysis and commentary that I can give other than "They're fucked." And although I can perhaps suggest ways that they could un-fuck themselves, or prevent said fuckage in the future, I fear that my comments will come off as the negative, profanity laden, and/or holier-than-thou rants that the internet is known for, and that I don't like reading. No thanks. I've already sworn more in this paragraph than I have in the last three months of published posts. Think of the children.

So for now, "The Grand Scheme" goes on the back burner. I envision bringing it back when life settles down--the offseason seems an appropriate time for this--and doing so at a scheduled regular interval. In the meantime, everything else about the blog will continue as normal. Seeing as how I average .0001 comments per Grand Scheme post, I'm guessing that most of you won't even notice the difference.

Chchchchanges Also, it appears as though this blog is a wee bit antiquated. I was clued into this when I noticed that my "google followers" gadget in the sidebar stopped working because my template was too old and crotchety. I'll consider this the wake-up call to do the blog re-design that I've wanted to do for over a year. This means that I may or may not actually do a blog redesign, but know that I really want to. On the docket: New (but similar) template. New "Grand Cards" logo. A Grand Cards banner. Additional functionality, but probably not much because I don't know a whole lot about the internet so I'll just take what I can get. These things should update the look and feel of the blog so that it will only be a little bit outdated instead of a lot-a-bit.

Checklists and Galleries To-be-expanded. This is probably a bad idea, since I'm behind on 2010 checklists and galleries, but I'm in the process of putting together comprehensive by-year checklists. This is a by-product of receiving a ton of cards from the 80s for which I have no checklists at all. So, I'll be putting these together, posting them in the "checklists" section, and then doing galleries if and when I complete a team set of these older cards. Then I'll start filling in with internet-gleaned galleries.

And that's really it, I'm hitting the pause button on "The Grand Scheme," continuing everything else as normal and hoping that life can slow down to the point where I can catch back up to it. We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

The Best Thing About An Off Day

Is that the Tigers can't lose.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It Could Be Worse

Still stewing over the last two days of managerial ineptitude? Chin up folks, things have been tough for all of us in Tigertown, I know. The team seems to find new ways to break your heart or disappoint you day in and day out. But remember this there's always tomorrow (in this case, in about an hour at Fenway Park, where the Tigers go for the elusive road series. I've got good vibes about Verlander today.), and it could always be worse. Lest we forget:
2003 Fleer Tradition #11 Tigers Team Leaders

The Tigers were led by a pitcher with 8 wins. Randall Simon was the leading offensive player. The season leaders have worse numbers in each category than the 2010 team leaders have Right Now with two months to go. You don't even want to know the horrors of turning the card over--the Top 5 in each category are gruesome. Oh, and that wasn't even the Tigers' bad year.

Thanks to The Brooklyn Met for putting things into perspective for me. This was just one of a handful of cards that he sent my way, all similarly depressing. Esteban Yan?!...Oy!