30 August 2015

2014 Marvel 75th Anniversary MODOK Sketch

I did something this weekend that I haven't done in quite a while. I sat down with my monthly stack of comic books and I read them. With all the other stuff I have going on all the time it seems surprisingly difficult to sit down with 15-20 comic books and get through them all. I didn't read through them all in one sitting, but I did manage to get through my stack over the course of a day. My August shipment is scheduled to come in this week, so maybe next weekend I will be able to read another batch of books. It's sad that it can be so difficult to make time for the things we like to do. It seems like I am always bumping something from my list so that I can do something else. But I also feel like I waste a lot of time doing not much of anything. Time management isn't my strong suit, I guess.


I picked up this sketch card a little while ago on eBay. It's a sketch of MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), He was created in the late 1960s as a Captain America villain, and has plagued Captain America, the Hulk, the Avengers, and various other people as well. One of my favorite versions of the MODOK character appears in the Superhero Squad cartoon series, which is really a great show if you like superheroes and funny jokes. He was created by AIM scientists in an experiment designed to create a being that could improve and study a newly-created Cosmic Cube. Obviously things went wrong and MODOC (Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing) became MODOK, overthrew his masters, and became the leader of AIM. He has a vast memory, increased intelligence, limited psionic powers that are focused and enhanced through his headband, and the ability to calculate probabilities with such accuracy that it acts as a kind of precognition. His powers have caused his head to grow so large that he requires a hoverchair to get around. His increased intelligence has not led to an increase in fashion sense, so he goes to the same barber as Doctor Octopus and chose the colors yellow and purple for his mobility suit.

The sketch itself comes from a 2014 Marvel 75th Anniversary set put out by Rittenhouse Archives. Rittenhouse puts out a variety of non-sports sets as well as the annual WNBA boxed set. The art was created by Eliseu Gouveia, an artist out of Portugal. I bid on this particular sketch because the linework is good, I like the coloring on this piece, and the price was right. There are a few MODOK sketches out there, but not a whole lot of them. I am pretty happy with this one, especially for the price.

There are so many good sketches out on the market right now that it would be impossible to get all the ones I like, and more are coming out all the time. My watch list on eBay alone has probably got 40 awesome sketches in it that I will never buy because I don't have millions of dollars. I have had to narrow my collecting habits down, so I have a list of characters I am interested in obtaining sketches of, and a list of artists whose work I like. When something from one of those lists pops up with a low opening bid I usually try to at least put in an initial bid so I can watch the auction until it ends. Ninety-eight times out of a hundred the bidding goes way up above anything in my price range and the card goes to someone else, but every so often I slip one through and get to add to my collection. I'm glad I was able to add a nice MODOK sketch to my hoard, and hopefully I will be doing some more comic book reading this weekend.

29 August 2015

Pack of the Day 103: 2015 Topps Chrome Blaster Box


It's been a rough week. The wildfires in the West have poured a lot of smoke into the air, so my allergies have been on full-blast for a while now. My sinuses are just burnt out. There is a process at work that got switched from an upload-based program to a web-based program, and the programmers didn't consult with users so it doesn't display information we need in a useful way. On smaller error listings it only adds a couple of extra hours to processing, but we have one very large report that the web-based system can't handle. Instead of taking seconds per line, it takes 3-4 minutes per line, and there are 3800 lines on the list. I worked the thing all week and only got through around 450 lines. There are just enough button-clicks required that you can't effectively multi-task, so I am looking at working this same stupid report (that would only take a day or two under the old process) until the end of September, with higher headquarters nagging the whole time because it is past due. But they won't roll out a fix for it or let us revert to the old process for just this one file because the whole process is changing again in December anyway and they are working on that. My eyes hurt from looking at the same spreadsheet for nine hours a day, and my brain hurts from thinking about doing the same thing every day for the foreseeable future. I don't drink, so I bought a blaster of 2015 Topps Chrome to help me deal with it. It's got 7 packs of Chrome plus a bonus pack of Sepia Refractors.


Here are the odds taken from the back of one of the packs. I don't know how they compare to the odds on regular Retail packs or Hobby packs.


First up is the pack of Sepia Refractors. While opening this I felt like there were an awful lot of Red Sox in this box. I am going to track the teams and see if this was true or just my perception. I guess these are all right, although it kind of bothers me that they changed up the numbering on all of the Refractors again. Sepia Refractors are supposed to be numbered out of # / 75. I've heard that the case breakers are frustrated at the relative lack of colored Refractors in this year's product. I could imagine that taking out even one or two layers of serially-numbered parallels does really hurt their bottom line, as that one good pull could be the card that brings a case from a loser to a winner.

Seattle Mariners - 1
Boston Red Sox - 2
Texas Rangers - 1


I got the base version of David Ortiz in this pack to go along with the Sepia Refractor from the last pack. Kris Bryant is the rookie to get from this product, although Carlos Correa would be my preference. Correa, though, was only included in the set as a last-minute short-print so it is unlikely that I will get his card. Any of the 5 short-printed rookie cards would pay for the blaster if sold on eBay, though. This Kris Bryant rookie card seems to be making brisk sales for a few dollars a pop even in base form. Moustakas gets one of the more unique photos in the set, with a 'falling over the rail' fielding shot.

Seattle Mariners - 1
Boston Red Sox - 3
Texas Rangers - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 1
Chicago Cubs - 1
Kansas City Royals - 1


I guess the Sean Doolittle card is my favorite here, with him looking a lot like Groundskeeper Willie. The Kyle Lobstein card is a base Refractor. They are harder to spot in this year's set with the colored borders as opposed to the silver borders of previous years, and Topps removed the 'Refractor' label from the backs which collectors had used as a crutch in recent years. Now you have to do the time-honored 'wiggle your cards around under a light source' maneuver to identify your Refractors, just as The Hobby's Founding Fathers intended.

Seattle Mariners - 2
Boston Red Sox - 3
Texas Rangers - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 1
Chicago Cubs - 1
Kansas City Royals - 1
Atlanta Braves - 1
Detroit Tigers - 1
Oakland A's - 1


I don't have a lot to say about this pack. Melvin Mercedes is a Prism Refractor, which I guess replaces the X-Fractors of yesteryear. So now Panini has Refractor-y Prizms and Topps has Prism-y Refractors. Mark Teixeira has been surprisingly productive in fantasy baseball this year, although he is currently battling a leg injury which is really more along the lines of what I expected from him.

Seattle Mariners - 2
Boston Red Sox - 4
Texas Rangers - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 1
Chicago Cubs - 1
Kansas City Royals - 1
Atlanta Braves - 1
Detroit Tigers - 2
Oakland A's - 1
San Diego Padres - 1
New York Yankees - 1


The Salvador Perez card is a Refractor. These fall 1:3 packs, so I would expect about two of them in a blaster, and two is what I got. Doug Fister is having a down year after several years of pretty consistent success. I guess it is nice to get a Blue Jays card, even if Russell Martin doesn't even make my top 5 (maybe not even top 10!) players on the roster.

Seattle Mariners - 2
Boston Red Sox - 4
Texas Rangers - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 1
Chicago Cubs - 1
Kansas City Royals - 2
Atlanta Braves - 1
Detroit Tigers - 3
Oakland A's - 1
San Diego Padres - 1
New York Yankees - 1
Washington Nationals - 1
Toronto Blue Jays - 1


I like getting Johnny Cueto cards, although I probably like him less as a Royal than I did when he was a Red. Brandon Phillips is an interesting case to me. He's been a Hall of Pretty Good-caliber player since basically 2007, but most of the Reds fans I know don't seem to like him very much. Also, this:



The Future Stars insert of Joc Pederson is a nice enough card, although it looks like it belongs in one of the Topps Finest sets of the last couple years. They are seeded 1:12 packs, so I guess I beat the odds a bit with it. Pederson's family has had one of the better feel-good stories of this season, as the media has tracked his brother's struggle to decide whether Joc or Albert Pujols is his favorite player.

Seattle Mariners - 2
Boston Red Sox - 4
Texas Rangers - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 1
Chicago Cubs - 1
Kansas City Royals - 2
Atlanta Braves - 1
Detroit Tigers - 3
Oakland A's - 1
San Diego Padres - 1
New York Yankees - 1
Washington Nationals - 1
Toronto Blue Jays - 1
Cincinnati Reds - 2
Los Angeles Dodgers - 1
St. Louis Cardinals - 1


Madison Bumgarner is a Prism Refractor, which makes two for the box and is another slight win over the printed odds. Not a bad player to pull a parallel of, either, although he's probably not on track for a Cy Young award this year in spite of his ace numbers.

Seattle Mariners - 2
Boston Red Sox - 4
Texas Rangers - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 2
Chicago Cubs - 1
Kansas City Royals - 2
Atlanta Braves - 1
Detroit Tigers - 3
Oakland A's - 1
San Diego Padres - 1
New York Yankees - 1
Washington Nationals - 1
Toronto Blue Jays - 1
Cincinnati Reds - 2
Los Angeles Dodgers - 1
St. Louis Cardinals - 1
Pittsburgh Pirates - 1
San Francisco Giants - 1
Baltimore Orioles - 1


The final pack of the blaster holds the biggest hit, with a Purple Refractor of Mookie Betts, numbered # 216 / 250. This is the most common of the serially-numbered parallels, falling at 1:38 packs. It's also my 5th Red Sox card, showing that my impression was correct. I did pull a lot of Red Sox relative to other teams, as the next-most-represented team was the Detroit Tigers with three cards in the box. The Purple Betts card actually gets outsold on eBay by the base Kris Bryant rookie card, so I guess it's a bit of a toss-up as far as which card wins the MVP of this break. It was fun to bust this open, but Topps Chrome is kind of like the Chinese food of baseball cards. It's pretty good, but ten minutes later you're hungry again. 

Seattle Mariners - 2
Boston Red Sox - 5
Texas Rangers - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 2
Chicago Cubs - 2
Kansas City Royals - 2
Atlanta Braves - 1
Detroit Tigers - 3
Oakland A's - 1
San Diego Padres - 1
New York Yankees - 2
Washington Nationals - 1
Toronto Blue Jays - 1
Cincinnati Reds - 2
Los Angeles Dodgers - 2
St. Louis Cardinals - 1
Pittsburgh Pirates - 1
San Francisco Giants - 1
Baltimore Orioles - 1

28 August 2015

Outta Nowhere! A Surprise Package from Kettle aka John Soukup!

(I started writing this a couple of days ago. I don't really feel like going through and changing it all, so I am leaving it as if this all still occurred today.) I came home today and found a box on my desk. That's not all that surprising or unusual as more often than not I've got some kind of package inbound, but I wasn't really expecting anything today. And when I saw the name 'Soukup' on top of the package I knew that 1) it wasn't something I was expecting and 2) it was probably going to be awesome. The box held a note and an Ultra-Pro Ball Holder box. The note said that the artist, John Soukup, had done a Stan Musial ball for someone and thought he ought to do one for me as well. I opened up the box and found this:


John Soukup, who is the artist behind this sketch card and this surprise package as well as a couple of things I haven't yet posted about, had taken the time to paint a baseball and send it to me as a surprise gift. I took pictures of every angle to show off here. The top of the ball has Ken Griffey Jr.'s name on it.


One side features The Kid in a batting stance, wearing his Seattle uniform and trademark eye black.


The other side features a Mariners logo. Some of the paint on a few sides of the ball has rubbed off onto the ball holder. I need to see if there is something I can spray it or brush it with to protect it without causing more damage to the paint. In painting miniature figures for my wargaming hobby I found out the hard way that some sealants used with some paints can cause more harm than good.


This side of the ball shows the honors that Griffey earned during his career. One digit is off on the year for Griffey's MVP award, but we'll just give it Beckett's UER designation and be just fine. He's got a pretty good resume, and I think he might just get into the Hall of Fame when he gets eligible next year.


The other side of the ball tells the statistical story that led to all of those awards and honors. If he hadn't missed so much time he might have had some even better numbers, especially that magical 3000-hit mark. He's been in the news lately for appearing on Macklemore's new music video in a reenactment of his famous Upper Deck Rookie card:


There's quite a bit of gray in that goatee and he's gotten a little thicker, but it's definitely the same guy. I imagine he'll be in the news a bit more as the Hall of Fame discussion ramps up and all the sports writers argue about whether his qualifications and whether or not he came through the Steroid Era cleanly.

It was great to find this surprise in the mail, and it's awesome that John thought of me when it came time to do a baseball project. I don't know that I ever did anything to deserve his generosity, but I sure do appreciate it. I actually have a couple more things from him that I haven't even posted yet because they are part of a post about all sorts of deep meaningful questions that have been on my mind lately. I don't know if I'll ever really get that post finished, but I will eventually be posting more work by him. You can check out his DeviantArt gallery here to see some of his other work. It looks like he updates it from time to time with a sampling of his work.

24 August 2015

Contested Shots 10: Prize Set from Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits


There were a series of Allen & Ginter-related contests over at Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits to celebrate the arrival of the new set, and I won one of them. For my prize I chose a complete base set of 2015 Allen & Ginter. Along with the base set, Matt included a short-printed mini of R.A. Dickey from last year's set. Who knows if I already have this card? I sure don't know as I am way behind on cataloging my collection, so as far as I can tell it's new to me!


Since I had all of the cards in the set sitting in a box right in front of me, I was able to flip through is and see what all there was to see. LaTroy Hawkins looks like he wants to start a relationship with that baseball in his hand. I've talked plenty about Jon Singleton on this blog, as he is the main guy whose cards I've been chasing lately. Max Scherzer's close-ups are always striking because of his different-colored eyes. And Billy 'Country Breakfast' Butler is another favorite slugger of mine, although he hasn't been doing a lot of slugging since his All-Star 2012 season. It'll be interesting to see what the A's do with him after 2015.


Mr. T aka B.A. Baracus aka Clubber Lang makes an appearance in the set since the Rocky films are featured as a big component in the product this year. I have to admit that I may have seen part or all of the first Rocky movie, but I know I haven't seen any of the others. Maybe I am missing out? I don't know. A couple of other PC guys make it into this group, R.A. Dickey and Josh Reddick, who gace up his jersey number to Billy Butler after the move that brought Butler to Oakland. Both players are featured pretty heavily in this editorial piece on why it's good that the A's will not make the playoffs this season WARNING: THE HEADLINE PHOTO IS A PICTURE OF BILLY BUTLER THAT BRINGS THE TRUFFLE SHUFFLE TO MIND. And last in the group is Jose Altuve, who is one of the key guys on a team that is trending strongly in the right direction, if they could just give their pitchers some run support every once in a while. They lost one to the Yankees tonight after sweeping the Dodgers over the weekend, a set that included a no-hitter thrown by trade deadline acquisition Mike Fiers.


I liked Derek Norris a lot as an A, but when he went to the Padres he did what players who go to the Padres do: he disappeared. That's not really true. He's put together some pretty good numbers again this year. Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips had to make this post, although he has been weathering some self-inflicted negative press lately. He said some racist things on a video that was leaked, and I hope that he has changed his mind since the video was made or maybe that the camera just caught him during a really low point in his life. The Hulkster was a figure that loomed large over the world I grew up in that Hulkamania is woven into who I am. Hyun-Jin Ryu gets into the post because I like him. It seems like every card he's on features this same pose. I wonder if the photographers set it up, or if it's his default pose for getting his picture taken? Like maybe the photographers are like, 'Hey, maybe we should mix it up a little this time,' but he just stubbornly stands in that pose until they give up and take the picture. Some people do look the same in every picture. There's even 'documented' 'proof' of it on the internet.


George Springer is injured, but the Astros are hoping that he comes back and helps them boost their offense a bit for the race to the playoffs.


Jose Bautista is a key component on the Blue Jays offense, which is a machine built solely for destroying baseballs by knocking them into low orbit. I think they've scored like 850 runs in their last ten games, with back-to-back-to-back-to-back grand slams which are technically impossible but the balls travel so far and stay in the air for so long that four batters can come up to the plate and run around the bases before they land. Can you imagine this roster playing full-time in Colorado? Hunter Pence gets included for making a Ryan Braun face. He doesn't just see the baseball, he sees the baseball's soul and finds it wanting. Ichiro just looks weird in a Miami uniform. He belongs in a Mariners or (I can't believe I'm typing this) Yankees uniform. Evan Gattis is my current favorite Astro, even though he played for the Braves at one point.


Dallas Keuchel is the Astros' ace pitcher, although I think Scott Kazmir and company would argue that point. It's a good problem for the team to have. Val Kilmer was pretty huge in the 80's and 90's, and his portrayal of Doc Holliday in Tombstone is one of my favorite performances of all time, but it seems like it's been a long time since he was super relevant. Topps did a good job including Malala Yousafzai in the set, as she has done a lot to promote education opportunities for youth and women in the world after gunmen attempted to end her life. There are many political figures who stand for controversial causes and might not be good choices for a card set, but it is hard to advocate convincingly against the right to pursue an education. Closing out this post is Josh Donaldson, who is another key component in that powerful Blue Jays offense.

Thank you for the cool price, Matt! I was super excited to get the full Allen & Ginter set, even if you did send me one of those dang Card Savers! 


23 August 2015

An Astros No-Hitter and a 2015 Bowman Gold Jon Singleton


On Friday night pitcher Mike Fiers, recently traded to the Astros from the Brewers, threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers in a 3-0 win. I didn't watch the first few innings, but I turned the game on in the 5th or 6th inning and had a good time watching to see if Fiers would be able to finish the thing off. Those last couple of outs were pretty tense, but he got it done. Even more important, the Astros won the game to keep them moving in the right direction in the standings. They beat Zack Greinke on Saturday night, too, which was especially good because the Angels were busy being blasted by the Blue Jays. The Rangers have been making a go at things lately, too, and have caught up to the Angels in the standings so that both teams are just a few games behind the Astros for the division lead. The Astros will have another tough test on Sunday, going up against Clayton Kershaw in the final game of this series, after which they will head to New York to face the Yankees.


Here's an Astro who is looking forward to September call-ups where he might get another chance at getting back on track. Unfortunately the struggles he had during his earlier stint with the Astros have continued after his demotion back to AAA, and he just isn't putting up much in the way of numbers there.


This 2015 Bowman Gold parallel has been sitting in my scan folder for quite some time, so I thought I ought to get it posted so that I can move it from there into my 'Posted' folder. It is numbered # 42 / 50.

22 August 2015

I Got it at Sportlots 10: Daniel Norris Player Collection


Around the time the ESPN article about Daniel Norris came out I considered starting a player collection of his cards. This was the worst possible time to do so, as a lot of other people read that article and decided either that they wanted to collect his cards or that they could make money prospecting on his cards. I did wind up with a handful of Daniel Norris cards, including this group I purchased from sellers on Sportlots. I guess the big card in the lot was this 2012 Bowman Platinum Prospects Autograph card, featuring an on-card signature and a lot of shiny.


These are all mini cards from the Bowman line. The first two are Cream of the Crop Mini Refractors from 2013 Bowman Chrome. The one on the left is the base model and the one in the middle is the Blue parallel. On the far right is a 2014 Bowman Chrome Mini Purple Refractor.


The backs of the cards show the top 5 prospects in the organization as determined by the Bowman scouts, which probably means that the card designer does a web search for [Team Name] top prospects and copy/pastes the first list they find that seems legit. The main difference between 2013 and 2014 is that Sean Nolin came off the list and got replaced by Roberto Osuna. The Blue Jays traded away a number of prospects this year, so it will be interesting to see what the 2016 Bowman list looks like.


I grabbed a couple of 2015 Topps cards, too. On the left is the purple Toys "R" Us parallel and on the left is Norris' standard base card.


I picked up his 2012 Bowman and 2012 Bowman Chrome issues as well. The card on the right is a Blue Wave Refractor parallel from 2012 Bowman Chrome. It doesn't show up in the Sportlots order history, so I must have picked it up on eBay or something.


Closing things out are a couple of 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition cards. One is a solo card and the other is a Building Blocks card that Norris shares with Joseph Musgrove and Kevin Comer. And that is most of my Daniel Norris collection. I think I picked up a couple of his other cards on eBay over the last few months, but in the end I couldn't hang with the prospectors and their crazy prices.

20 August 2015

2015 Topps Jon Singleton Silver-Framed Parallel


I am running short on time today, so this is a quick one-card post. I picked this 2015 Topps Silver-Framed parallel of Jon Singleton up on eBay at the end of June. These cards are pretty cool, but they are kind of difficult to store. Even if you find a top loader thick enough, they like to slide right out of the plastic because of their weight and their slippery metal cases. This is a pretty decent photo of Singleton and the card is fairly rare, with my copy being # 03 / 20 in the print run.


I watched the start and the end of tonight's Astros game. It was unfortunate to see that they lost a close one 1-0 to the Rays. The pitchers have been outstanding lately, but the bats just haven't been keeping up. They've got what projects to be a tough series against the Dodgers coming up and the Angels are right there behind them in the standings. I hope they can get it going soon.