Grand Cards: April 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Team We Have

This is the follow up to "The Team We Had", which examined the 2010 Topps Factory Team Set and all of its flaws. Well, I've got good news: 2011 is much better.

Take a look:

#DET1 Miguel Cabrera

#DET2 Magglio Ordonez

#DET3 Brandon Inge

#DET4 Max Scherzer

#DET5 Brad Penny

#DET6 Ryan Raburn

#DET7 Carlos Guillen

#DET8 Austin Jackson

#DET9 Jhonny Peralta

#DET10 Rick Porcello

#DET11 Brennan Boesch

#DET12 Joaquin Benoit

#DET13 Justin Verlander

#DET14 Jose Valverde

#DET15 Alex Avila

#DET16 Victor Martinez

#DET17 Comerica Park

For one, ALL of these players are currently on the Tigers 25-man roster. This is a huge win. Of course, to make it happen, there are some pretty bad photoshop jobs, but that is something for another post. On pure roster capture, this gets an A+ (They even have Ryan Raburn and Alex Avila!!)

All of the Tigers who are in Series 1 see their photos replicated here. It remains to be seen whether the other photos will be rehashed in Series 2. In the past the factory set and Series 2 pictures have been different, but we'll have to wait and see.

The best part of the whole set is the great shot of a FULL Comerica Park with full-on Whale Building in frame. A Stadium Card is perfect for a team set, and as someone who has an affinity for Stadiums in general, I'm tempted to buy this for all the teams just to get all the stadiums (Note to my wife: I won't)

On balance, the 2011 Topps Team Set blows 2010 out of the water. For any fan of the team (or their team) it gets my wholehearted recommendation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Double Whammy

The Tigers had two former players pass away last Friday, each with memorable four letter names:



The Detroit Free Press has a nice little writeup on Reno Bertoia while Larry Osborne gets a bit of press back east. Tom Gage of The Detroit News, who brought both deaths to my attention, has a great Bobo story, about his only career Grand Slam...that didn't count.

I picked up both of these cards at last year's National, and the Osborne in particular holds a special place in my heart for the great shot of an all-green Tiger Stadium in 1960.

RIP to the both of them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Passover

I hope that everyone in the vast community of Jewish baseball card bloggers (oh, just me?)...ok, well, I wish everyone who celebrates passover a happy one.

For those of you in Michigan, I'm pretty sure that 3 inches of snow in April was one of the ten plagues. Right after boils, I think.

Also, Joel Zumaya would have been well advised to mark his doorpost before the angel of arm death visited...ah, crap. Too late.

Enjoy your 7 remaining days of decidedly less-fun passover celebrations (nobody said escaping slavery was easy). May your matzah be dry and brittle.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

It's not of Brandon Inge hitting a walk-off home run!

Also, something else. Take a look...

Alright. Who's got it?

Answer after the jump...

The Team We Had

It's been a long time since I posted a card gallery, and since I recently got both the 2009 and 2010 Topps Factory Team Sets, I thought this would be a fun one.

For those not in the know, at the start of every season, Topps releases a 17-card set for each team. They will often include photoshopped images of the major off-season acquisitions, and in recent years have included photos that differ from players' normal Topps cards. Taken together, they are a nice pick-up for a team collector.

Of course, with production lead times being what they are and the uncertainty of baseball rosters being what they are, these sets can go awry. The 2010 set was one of those. Look at the team we had:

#DET1 Miguel Cabrera

#DET2 Jarrod Washburn

#DET3 Clete Thomas

#DET4 Rick Porcello

#DET5 Brandon Inge

#DET6 Nate Robertson

#DET7 Magglio Ordonez

#DET8 Jeremy Bonderman

#DET9 Marcus Thames

#DET10 Wilkin Ramirez

#DET11 Phil Coke

#DET12 Justin Verlander

#DET13 Joel Zumaya

#DET14 Robinzon Diaz

#DET15 Carlos Guillen

#DET16 Max Scherzer

#DET17 Daniel Schlereth

Let's see. The following players were not on the 25-man roster last year, an honest mistake that perhaps presumes a major-league call-up when one is not imminent, or ignores an injury that only insiders really pay attention to:

Clete Thomas, Wilkin Ramirez, Robinzon Diaz, Daniel Schlereth

Fine. Down to 13 players with 4 in the minors (Wilkin was traded mid-season)

Except, some players were no longer with the organization: Nate Robertson and Marcus Thames.

Oh, and one was no longer playing professional baseball. I'm looking at you Jarrod Washburn.

So that cuts us down to 10 players. Of those, Joel Zumaya, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez would miss significant portions of the season to injury.

That leaves us with a core team of Miguel Cabrera, Rick Porcello, Brandon Inge, Jeremy Bonderman (!), Phil Coke, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.

If Topps is only able to accurately predict 10 players off of your 25-man roster, you're in trouble. If only 7 of those players actually play for most of the season, you're in even bigger trouble. 2010 was a rough year, and looking back on it, we really should have seen it coming.

Up next: The team we have--a look at the 2011 Team Set

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Heard It All Before

April 12, 2010:

"This is a good big-league team — if we perform," Leyland said. "Certainly, I'd rather be 7-3, but if guys get into a groove and perform up to their track records, we'll be fine. We'll win our share of games.

"But up here's it's a moment of truth. You must perform. That's what the big leagues are all about. And this team will perform."

April 10, 2008:
“I’m not going to get down on this club,” Leyland said. “I’ll tell you that right now. I’ll be the most positive person here. I’m not going to sit around and pout because a good Tiger team is not doing good right now. I’m not going to do that. If you’re looking for that, you’re looking in the wrong area.”


“We got a good ball club with a good bunch of guys,” Leyland said. “We’ll play good. Obviously, I hope it starts soon. But we’ll play good.”

May 4, 2008:
"I just think our offense is better than this," Leyland said. "I know it's better than this. I've seen a couple things that surprised me."


Part of the problem, Leyland explained, is that they don't have the speed or athleticism to do some of the tricks a manager might try to manufacture runs, such as hitting -and-running, stealing bases or taking an extra base.

So pardon me if I take the talk about this Tigers team, currently featuring many of the flaws so retrospectively apparent in the 2008 team with the world's largest grain of salt.

I'm not giving up on this team, not by a long shot, but there's going to need to be a rather pronounced transition from playing bad baseball to playing good baseball. It's not like they're losing heartbreakers out there.

Mr. Penny can put the train back on track this afternoon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Back to Back

#22 Victor Martinez 2011 Topps - Black Diamond (Redemption)

#57 Miguel Cabrera 2011 Topps - Black Diamond (Redemption)

I think that this may be the first time that I've ever gone to back to back baseball games to start the season. Based on last night's attendance at Camden Yards I'm not the only one for whom this is a rare occurrence. Still, me and my 5-person party of Tigers fans thoroughly enjoyed watching the Tigers do what we all wanted them to do this year. Play well.

It wasn't all perfect, but it made for a great game. At no point did things feel out of hand, but it was never at the point where I was sick-to-my-stomach nervous about things falling apart. Some points of note:

  • Brennan Boesch reached on an error--a bad error, since it really wasn't very windy last night and that pop up should have been caught--which was folowed up by a walk to Peralta. With Alex Avila at the plate, having looked relatively helpless so far this season, a wild pickoff throw advances Boesch to 3rd. At this point my wife says something like "Avila is going to do something here. Weird errors like that have a way of snapping you into reality and breaking you out of a slump." And lo.
  • Alex Avila was great. He won the game for the Tigers.
  • Verander. See Above. Was filthy and got better later in the game, while clocking in not too far from 100 pitches. A phenomenal start.
  • Back to Back home runs from Cabrera and VMart. Immediately prior to those at bats I thought that both of them had looked lost at the plate, especially Cabrera. Shows what I know.
  • Maggs crushed the ball all night, but got only two singles to show for it. He's about to break out in a big way.
  • Jhonny "Rhange" Peralta. He took a horrible angle to miss a routine ground ball earlier in the game, but made up for it with a couple very nice plays on balls up the middle(ish).
  • Camden Yards. Still one of the nicest places to see a ballgame, especially on a 50 degree evening. The win made my walk home that much easier.

It was a great night all around. Back to back games for me and back to back home runs for the Tigers. Let's see if the Tigers can make it back to back wins tonight.

The two cards shown above are part of the "Black Diamond" redemption set from 2011 Topps. I actually got both of them in the mail before the game yesterday, which made the Cabrera/VMart homer parade feel all the more appropriate. This is a great little set from Topps. I certainly hope it continues into Series 2 and the Update Set, as these are the only two (non-autographed) Tigers that exist.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again*

Yesterday was Opening Day in Baltimore.

For those of you that haven't experienced an Opening Day--my life has been blessed with attending all but a tiny handful of Opening Days in Detroit and Baltimore--it is the greatest day of the year, without exception. Sure, individual events may surpass it--a particularly important sports game or championship; a wonderful trip or night out; that one time when you found that nice sweatshirt that you thought you lost, but there is was in some bag that you hadn't used in over a year, and then found $20 in the pocket--but there is no other day of the year that will be as reliably spectacular as Opening Day.

It has everything. The start of baseball season. The beginning of spring. Hot Dogs. Time with your family and friends before, during and after the game. Sure, sometimes it may be really damn cold, or raining or blustery, but with every Opening Day comes a duplicitous sense of hope.

This is the year my team can do it.
Winter's death grip shall finally be released.

When you grow up in a place like Michigan, that second point can't be understated.

So yeah, I treat Opening Day as a holiday, a proud family tradition dating back to my grandpa taking my mom and her brothers to Opening Day at Tiger Stadium. Every year he would tell the stories about how he would call in to their school and inform the receptionist that they wouldn't be coming in today. "They have a previous engagement."

Now I'm lucky enough to work for a company that literally shuts down to go to Opening Day. So just imagine my joy when I learned that my team--The Tigers--were going to be in Baltimore for the Orioles' Opening Day. Oh, there was joy.

But I was wrong. It was wrong.

Opposing fans should not be allowed at Opening Day. They should be banned. Removed at the gate. Stricken from the crowds.

I say this not because opposing fans are obnoxious, or rude or even a distraction to the home fans--I saw very few Tigers fans today and of those that I did see before, during and after the game they were non-entities. No. I say this because it simply shouldn't be. Opening Day is a sacred event. To not root for the home team is sacrelige. Hell, it's in the damn defining song about baseball, the entire lyrics of which are basically a narrative of opening day. Root, root, root for the Home Team

So here I was, watching my favorite team play on Opening Day in one of my favorite ballparks, and from time to time I couldn't help but think I shouldn't be here. Or, more specifically, if I'm going to be here I should be rooting for the Orioles. I have never felt that before, and I have been to many games in many sports as an opposing fan.

Was Opening Day a loss? A bust? No, of course not. It was Opening Day, and I love Opening Day. But this one was different. I was an intruder who somehow managed to slip through the cracks.

That's why I'm so excited to go back tomorrow. With Opening Day over, the baseball season can begin. Go Tigers.

*Full credit to my lovely wife and actual reader of ASFTINDA for suggesting a title vastly superior to whatever it was I had originally named this post, which I literally forgot the moment I heard her suggestion because it erased everything else from my mind with its superiority. Also, this post was in no way meant to evoke David Foster Wallace, or be written in the style of DFW or anything. I haven't read his stuff and despite wanting to, a full life with classes and lack of a kindle or similar doesn't make lugging around a 1400 page copy of Infinite Jest seem imminent.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Home O-pener

I am literally the most excited person in Baltimore today. It's the Orioles home opener, which has become an annual tradition for my wife and I and they are playing the Tigers. On Opening Day.

More good times:

- If you're familiar with a Baltimore accent say "Home Opener." It's a blast. You'll be saying it all day.

- Luke Scott pulled his groin and won't make it back until Wednesday, at the earliest. This is spectacular news for Tigers fans (For why, see "Tiger Killer Kills Tigers" and "Why I blog, Luke Scott Edition") To echo @sabrerosetiger on twitter the O's should probably just sit him for the whole week just to be safe. Please.

-Yesterday Brennan Boesch did a lot of this:

For those of you without a keen baseball eye, that is a picture of him doing awesome things with the bat. Yesterday it was to the tune of 4 hits, including a home run 4 runs and 4 RBIs. His partner in prolific offensive production was none other than...

It is Opening Day. He will play like a star. It's in the cards (!)

For the rest of you Tigers fans, enjoy your mundane sandwich series between the true opener and the home opener. Me, I'll be sporting all my Tigers gear down at Camden Yards, whereupon I will be mercilessly harassed by the large swaths of ignorant O's fans that show up for 1) Opening Day 2) No other games*. It will be miserable right up to the point where the Tigers beat the undefeated Orioles, at which point I will quietly make my way home, careful to avoid large, belligerent crowds.

*It should be noted that I do not find actual Orioles fans to be ignorant. In fact, they are among the better fans in the game--not surprising if they've stuck with it for this long. The specific subset of fans to which I'm referring are the large drunk masses of people who care about Opening Day, but not about the O's and are intolerable on every level. For the other 364 days of the year they are known as Ravens fans.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Brightening an off-day

An off day already? What a letdown. Also, I'd really like for Opening Day to be a singular monster where all the teams are playing all at once and I struggle to keep my head on straight in a full day of baseball overload bliss.

Oh well.

It's a cold, rainy friday and I need something to lift my spirits:

A friend of mine was upgrading his collection and didn't have use for this nice little glass case. This allowed me to move my autographs from individual ball cubes in a cabinet to this little fella.

A lot of nice memories in that case. The perfect warm-up on a crummy off-day.

Update: to answer a question from the comments, the "subjects" on each ball, from left to right, Top to bottom:

Top Row: Monte Irvin, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew, Duke Snider
Middle Row: Cal Ripken/Tony Gwynn, Sparky Anderson, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Cal Ripken
Bottom Row: Bobby Doerr, Lee MacPhail, Carlton Fisk, 2006 WS (Granderson, Polanco, Thames, Inge, Robertson, Monroe), Curtis Granderson