Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 121: Pitching Face in HD - 2014 Stadium Club Gio Gonzalez Members Only

I was hanging around the Blowout card forums looking at box and case break results and I found a thread containing discussion about the new iteration of Stadium Club. There were forum users there using the pack odds for numbered inserts to determine how many copies of the unnumbered inserts were packed out.

The consensus was that for the Members Only parallel, which is inserted at about 1 per case, there are probably only around 8 copies of each card. I find that a little bit fascinating for some reason, so I set out to see if I could acquire a few of them on the cheap. The little foil stamp is unobtrusive and these are the kind of thing that could easily slip through the nets of some eBay shoppers. Some of the more popular players' cards are priced with Buy It Now or bidding wars that are worthy of the low print run. But others that end at odd times or are not well-described can fall through the cracks. This Gio Gonzalez card was one of them. I got it for just a couple of dollars, and although it is not serially-numbered, it is a very rare card. It also features a big dose of pitching face, the unfortunate side effect of throwing a ball really hard.

The back of the card has something that may be even worse than pitching face, as Gio looks like he is bound and determined to love somebody, a process that may be less romantic than it sounds. Maybe you could just say he looks focused or serious, but I think there is more to it than that. The numbers in the stat line don't quite match the numbers in the blurb, but the blurb-writer is only counting his full seasons from 2010 to 2013, not the 30 games he appeared in during 2008 and 2009. In 2014 he would post an ERA of 3.57, although his FIP would actually drop to 3.02 and his WHIP would drop as well, suggesting that his pitching actually improved from 2013 to 2014 but the supporting cast had trouble fielding the balls that were hit into play.

I am not too worried about the resale value on these Members Only cards that I've been picking up cheap, but in chasing Hakeem Olajuwon basketball cards from the 90's I am finding that the box or case hits from that era are pulling huge money on eBay because you just can't find them. The player collectors with money in their pockets are looking for cards that may not be serially-numbered but had low print runs, and they are willing to part with big dollars to fill those holes in their collections. Between low print runs and the attrition of time, you may only get one or two shots at a card before it's gone for good, locked up in some other person's collection.

I sometimes feel a little bad when a card falls to me for much less than I think it should, but I guess that's part of buying and selling on the open market. Most of the good deals I get are on things that aren't described well or that end during odd hours, like in the middle of the night or in the early morning. When selling cards I end my auctions at certain times and format the pictures and descriptions to match the research I've done on auction optimization. It usually works out pretty well for me, as long as I don't have to struggle with a non-paying bidder or something. In spite of getting hosed a bit on the price of this card, the seller included a couple of extras for padding. I was pretty happy to see that one of them is a player collection hit, with Jamie Moyer making an appearance in a Bowman card I didn't have yet.

For completeness I scanned the backs of the throw-ins, even though I don't have much to say about them. It's an interesting format for the stat blocks, although I think it takes a little too much concentration to try to read them. The word seems to be getting out about the Members Only cards, so my little run of cheap cards will soon be at an end. It was a lot of fun while it lasted, though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pack of the Day 78: A Hanger Box of 2014 Topps Update

I went the cheap and easy route on 2014 Topps Update this year, getting a complete set from a breaker on eBay for about the price of a blaster. That means that I don't really have to pick up any packs if I don't want to. But it is still fun to bust something at least to see how it looks coming out of the packs. My wife picked up a hanger box from Target for me, and here's the stuff that caught my eye.

Jose Altuve was the Astros' lone representative in the All-Star Game this year, and he got a decent card out of the deal. There are plenty of batting and throwing and running shots out there, so it's nice to see Topps use some of the more casual photos.

There were plenty of All-Star cards in the box, but here is a selection of the better ones. I am no Jeter fan, but the All-Star game was all about him since this season was his retirement tour. All but a couple of the All-Star cards in my box featured American League players, and the National League guys who were featured didn't do anything for me, so this is a pretty one-sided display.

A few of the base cards caught my eye. Vance Worley has got those distinctive glasses, and the Pirates' uniforms always seem to look good on baseball cards. I included Vogt and Qualls because they're an Athletic and an Astro. I don't think I pulled any decent Blue Jays cards, so I don't have one on here. I'm not a huge Cardinals guy, but Pat Neshek is a card collector and deserves some blog love for that. I liked the picture of David Ross with his ring, and I put the Figueroa card on here because it's just an awkward picture. I guess it's okay to include the Gatorade shower on a baseball card, but it feels a bit overdone.

And I can't ignore the horizontal cards. Tanaka gets included because before he got hurt he was about as big as Jose Abreu in the collecting world. I imagine the market on him will pick back up soon enough, though, as long as he is able to come back and pitch moderately well. I just thought it was funny that Shin-Soo Choo decided to take his bat with him. He'll probably discard it soon, but it seems like most guys are letting go of the bat right away, and it looks like he's ready to use it to make sure he doesn't get tagged out. Fuld is here for being an A, and Kurt Suzuki gets included because it's an action-packed play at the plate shot.

Jason Heyward seems to be the guy whose inserts I've been pulling lately. Not really a problem, I guess, but the Braves are probably in the bottom 10 teams I would be interested in collecting. I should really do a list sometime. The Puig card is a little bit awkward, and the Michael Wacha is from that Future is Now set that seems like it has been going on forever. The Paul Goldshmidt Power Players card is pretty nice, though, with a bit of a reflective sheen and bright colors. That is an insert set I might put together at some point.

As far as parallels go, I got the requisite Gold parallel, this one featuring Adrian Beltre. It's numbered out of # 1279 / 2014. The Red Hot Foil card continues that parallel set from Series' 1 and 2. I also got a Pink parallel of Rafael Montero, numbered # 22 / 50. They're seeded 1:29 hanger boxes, so that is a pretty big pull, although Montero isn't really a big money name. Still cool to get some kind of color out of a Retail product. I also pulled his Red Target-exclusive parallel and his base card. There were a few more of the Red Target-exclusive cards in the box but I didn't bother to scan them.

And that's about it for this one. I don't have much more to say about this stuff. It's what you expect from an Update set. Some people like all the All-Star cards and the preponderance of rookies in the set. Some people want less of that and more of the middle relievers and traded guys. I don't know that I've formed an opinion really one way or the other. I just like new cards.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What's in the Box 2: Collector Crate Bronze Level Unboxing

I saw somewhere that a new outfit called Collector Crate were unveiling a monthly mystery box program similar to Loot Crate, which sends out a monthly box full of geek and gamer paraphernalia. The Collector Crate version would be sports collector specific, and consists of three different pricing tiers, which in turn offer a different level of merchandise in each mystery box. The tiers are Bronze (10 low-mid end packs, 1 relic card, 1 autograph card, various odds and ends), Silver (10 mid end packs, 2 relic cards, 2 autograph cards, various odds and ends), and Gold (10 mid-high end packs, 3 relic cards, 3 autographs, various odds and ends).

They were offering a $5 discount on the inaugural October boxes, so I ordered a Bronze box to see what it was all about. It arrived in the mail last week. There is a Bronze sticker on the front and four little boxes denoting which sport the box contains. There is a checkbox for hockey, although they don't yet offer a hockey option. My choice was baseball. When it arrived the seal holding the box shut had been cut, but the contents all seemed to be intact.

Here are the various odds and ends that were included in the box. In the upper left is a Big League Chew gumball. It was not as satisfying as real Big League Chew which was shredded bubble gum that came in a pouch, like Red Man chewing tobacco. There was a small foam finger, which you could place on your finger, a little plastic baseball with an Angels logo on it, a Houston Astros pennant, and a Boston Red Sox sticker. The Collector Crate card talks about how you could win a Collector Crate box through their social media sites, and the little yellow envelope contains the bonus hits. I chewed the gumball and will probably find a place on my wall for the Astros pennant, but this stuff is probably not anything that I would go out and buy on my own. And I am just lucky that the pennant featured a team that I am a fan of.

Here are the 10 packs that came in the box. The only real difference between this and your basic repack from Target is that some of the packs are Hobby packs, so the odds are maybe a little better of pulling something decent. Let's see how I did. I'll start off with the bonus hits.

I got a couple of Mets hits in the box, with a relic/auto of Mike Cameron and a relic of Robin Ventura. They are two guys who had long careers in baseball and both were All-Stars at least once. The Cameron card is even pretty limited, being serially-numbered # 03 / 45. The hair on the Ventura swatch is probably a Duke relic from my Basset Hound, who sheds pretty much everywhere, even on the scanner. He has never even been in my car, but his hair is in my car.

In addition to the relic and autograph hits, the envelope contained this 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. Rated Rookie card. You can't say no to a free Griffey. So the hits were pretty decent, even if they weren't anything I would seek out on the secondary market. We all know that they could have been much, much less exciting.

I didn't bother to scan everything from the packs, but I did scan the cards that were most interesting to me. First up are the horizontal-format cards, because they have to be scanned in their own little group.

The Jeff Samardzija is a base card, but it fits into my player collections. I don't know anything about that Upper Deck X Baseball stuff, but the Troy Tulowitzki card was super-shiny and I figured it was special. The 2008 Upper Deck Heroes pack featured a couple of card with players I collect on them, but the card design was so ugly that I didn't scan them.

Homer Bailey is another player I knid of collect, as is Chris Johnson. Carlos Lee is an Astro and a die-cut, so I included him in the scan. I may already have that card, though. I pulled three 'hits' from the packs, which seems like a better-than-average ratio to me. Eddie Butler is supposedly one of the top prospects in the Rockies' system, but had pretty horrid stats in the three starts he made for them in 2014. He is also injured, and when he comes back from that he will probably get some more seasoning in the minors before (hopefully) getting another chance with the Rockies. Brad Sullivan was a first-round pick for the Athletics in 2003 and pitched in the lower end of their minor league system until 2007, never really getting anything going. The Mike Trout Elite Dominator card from 2014 Donruss is numbered # 774 / 999 and features an X-Fractor-like pattern that doesn't really show up in the scan.

The Eddie Butler autograph is a Refractor autograph and is numbered # 484 / 499.

And that's about it from the box. Even with the $5 discount and the extra autographs and inserts I pulled from my 10 packs of cards it's a bit borderline on whether the box was worthwhile. I can get a 10-pack repack from Target for around $12. I am not sure that the two bonus hits, the odds and ends, and the upgrade in some of the packs from Retail to Hobby adds an extra $13-18 in value for me personally. I can't imagine that I would even pull a couple of autographs and a Mike Trout insert or equivalent every time I busted a box.

Maybe I am just soured a bit on opening randomly-packed stuff altogether, when it generally works out to be cheaper to take the direct route and buy the cards I want outright on the secondary market.

Collector Crate may be good as an occasional purchase for me, but I can't see myself dropping the money to buy one every month. I don't know if things work out better at the higher tiers (the Gold tier seems to feature some pretty high-end packs, for example, with guaranteed hits), but the Bronze tier just doesn't quite hold enough value for me to strongly recommend it. I can scratch the repack itch at a lower price point, and the pennants/baseballs/bubble gum/stickers are stuff I normally wouldn't spend money on anyway, so I don't really include it in my mental value calculation.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 120: 2014 Press Pass Redline Danica Patrick Black and White Parallel

I am thinking about redoing some of my blog categories as some of them are getting a bit repetitive to me, especially my 'What eBay Hath Wrought' series. I haven't been doing a lot of trading or purchasing any packs on the retail market, so most of my cards lately come from eBay. I am trying to think of a good title for my NASCAR posts, but one hasn't come to me yet. 

I got this Danica Patrick parallel from eBay. For this particular card I think I prefer the base card, as it shows her in her blue/white Aspen Dental firesuit. Almost all of her cards show her in the green/black/orange GoDaddy garb, so it's nice to see something different. It's sort of like seeing your favorite baseball player in an alternate or throwback jersey on a baseball card. But none of that matters with this particular card because it is the Black and White parallel and both firesuits look pretty much the same in black and white. It is numbered # 61 / 75, so there aren't a whole lot of them out there, although you can find three or four of them on eBay right now. 

The back of the card continues the theme on the front, featuring the Aspen Dental-sponsored car in full color. Since this card was printed she has added two more Top 10 finishes on the season, but has yet to break the Top 5. She came close in Atlanta on August 31st, finishing 6th, but has had a run of fairly disappointing starts over the last few weeks. Even though she is not in contention for postseason points, hopefully she can run well at Talladega. She didn't qualify well, so she'll have a long climb if she wants to finish among the leaders.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2014 Topps Finest 31-40

I have kind of slowed down on the set review posts for 2014 Finest and 2013 SEGA Card-Gen. Each post takes a lot of time to write and it seems like I don't make the time for long-form posts much anymore. Here are the next ten cards in the Finest base set, starting with Marcus Semien, a 2B prospect with the White Sox. I don't know much about this guy aside from what I learned doing a quick Google search on him a few minutes ago. It looks like he is one of three guys expected to compete for the White Sox' starting second base spot next year. He's also the guy who shows up in card packs and disappoints you, as you see the White Sox logo and think, "Yes! Jose Abreu!" and then the card turns out to be this Semien guy. He is probably a pretty good player, but his cards aren't instant money like Abreu's are (at the moment). Time will tell if Abreu's cards keep their value, but I would be selling now if I had any spare Abreu cards that were worth a darn.

Here's another guy who I don't know much about, John Ryan 'Don't Call Me J.R.' Murphy. He's had a couple of stretches with the Yankees and apparently projects to be a decent backup catcher somewhere. Judging by this picture, his bat flip skills need some work.

Kinsler was acquired by the Tigers in exchange for Prince Fielder, and had a much better year than Fielder, who was ineffective or out altogether for most of the season with a neck injury. Kinsler made the All-Star team, keeping his every-other-year pattern going.

Romero pitched one game for the Rays in 2013. He is apparently a highly-rated prospect who can throw the ball really hard but has difficulty controlling where exactly it goes. Maybe he will make it back up to the big club and maybe he will be traded away.

Now this is a bat flip you can appreciate. It's got the height and the rotation you're looking for if you really want to make the pitcher and catcher mad at you. Myers went to Tampa Bay in the trade that brought James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals. He had a pretty good 2013, winning the Rookie of the Year award, but his 2014 kind of stunk. He's got plenty of time to get back on track, though, after his sophomore slump. But right now Kansas City has got to feel pretty good about the trade, as Shields and Davis are key component on that team. Davis was a big help in fantasy baseball this season, too. I had him in a few leagues, and his huge strikeout numbers and awesome ratios really boosted my pitching. 

This rookie-heavy post is killing me. I barely know most of the veterans, and while most of the rookie and prospect names are familiar, I don't know their stories or own them on any fantasy teams. I know just about nothing about C.J. Cron.

Normally I wouldn't have anything to say about Braun, but I'll make an exception this one time. I've been playing through a GM career in Out of the Park 15. I have the game set up so that it chooses random players from MLB history to include in each draft, and they have somewhat random careers, although it does seem like the bigger stars from real baseball history wind up being the big stars in the fake game. Maybe I have a box checked somewhere that causes this to happen instead of completely random results.

Anyway, Braun was a key component in my Houston Astros MLB Championship teams in 2018 and 2022, with only Rogers Hornsby outclassing him as a batter. The 2018 Championship really came on the back of a solid pitching staff, but Braun played in 129 games, batting .310 and netting 88 runs, 30 home runs, 96 runs batted in, and 11 stolen bases.

The 2022 Championship overcame average pitching with plenty of offense, with Braun playing in 156 games with a .280 batting average, netting 106 runs, 45 home runs, 119 runs batted in, and 22 steals. Then all of my veterans got old and their contracts all ballooned and my team went back to being somewhat mediocre for a couple of years. Then I got fired, even though I had assembled the consensus #1 minor league system in baseball. Now I am GM of the pretend Oakland Athletics, trying to overcome a team that was in a similar situation to the one I left, without the benefit of a stable full of decent prospects. I guess in the end all I am doing is entertaining myself with a colorful spreadsheet, but I can't help getting optimistic each season and hoping that my trades and draft picks pan out.

Yu Darvish started out pretty well in 2014, but shut down in August about 10 games short of a full complement due to an arm injury. The rumor is that he might be able to start throwing again in December.

George Springer is one of the Astros' hot young players. He played about a half-season's worth of games for them in 2014, shutting it down early due to a quad strain incurred in July that never really went away. He still managed to hit 20 home runs during the games he was able to play, and hopefully will be able to come back in 2015 ready to do some damage.

Closing things out for this post is another young player I don't know much about. He played a good portion of 2014 with the Rangers and put up pretty average stats. He's still young, though, so there is time for him to improve.

And that's it for this post. I like the Finest set, although I think that Topps could have zoomed out some of the photos or cropped in on dugout shots or something for some close-ups. As the pictures stand, it seems like the players are a bit crowded inside the border of the card. I guess you can give points for consistency across the set, as all the cards seem to fit a certain photographic style, but I wish the players had a little more breathing room at the edges of the photos.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 119: More Munnatawket Ginter Minis!

Soon after the Nachos Grande blog posted about their existence, the creator of the Munnatawket Allen & Ginter mini set posted a group of the What Could've Been limited insert set on eBay. The set features various sports stars as if they had continued down different career paths, and it is limited to 25 sets overall. I placed bids on all of them, but when the dust settled I had only won one of the auctions, the Russell Wilson card featuring him as a member of the Texas Rangers, the baseball team that drafted him. The other card I really wanted from the set was Vladimir Guerrero, but either the auction went higher than my high price or I got distracted around the time it ended and forgot to check up on it. I am pretty happy with the Russell Wilson card, even though my Denver Broncos haven't yet found a way to crack that Seattle code. This particular example is # 22 / 25. The Munnatawket minis have been pretty quiet on eBay as of late, so I am not sure how many chances there will be to complete even the base set. Card # 0 has been especially elusive. I am still kicking myself for not taking that second chance offer a few months ago when I had the chance.

Then there is the matter of the base set. I am not sure how many cards are in the base set, although I thought I saw the number mentioned in a blog post somewhere (it happens to be the blog post I linked above, and there are 80 total cards in the set). Three additions to my collection were included in the package along with the card I won. I got a Tom Brady, although on this card he is featured in his more recognizable uniform. Also included were Roberto Clemente and Ryan Zimmerman, the other Washington Zimmerman(n).

And here are the backs. I always like getting cards from this set, as Ryan is very generous with the freebies and anticipating what will drop out of the envelope is almost as fun as getting the cards I've won at auction. I don't know that I will ever be able to assemble the full set, but I am going to get as close as I can. I tracked down the cards I do have, and it looks like I've got 15 out of the 80 cards purported to be on the checklist. So I'm nearly a fifth of the way there!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 118: Rubbing is Racing

I had a relatively eventful commute home on Friday afternoon, with an 18-wheeler deciding that it was entitled to the lane space my car was occupying. I had been looking to move up or to the right in order to get out of the lane, specifically because I try to be careful around trucks and their blind spots. But no openings came available in the slow construction-congested traffic and I saw the truck's fender moving toward me from the left. He ground his wheel along the side of my car for a while, and the person in the lane to the right of me decided to let me change lanes at that point. The truck finished pushing me over and I looked to get over to the shoulder to talk about it. Once there, I realized the truck wasn't stopping, so I tried to get as much of a visual description as I could of it. Traffic was pretty slow, so the truck was in my field of vision for a little while.

Then I called the State Police to see what they could do for me. A couple of people pulled over to see if I needed help, but I was pretty distracted by the phone call and wasn't able to give them much attention. I hope they get some good karma in their lives for going out of their way to check on me, even though I wasn't very interactive. An incident response truck and a motorcycle officer showed up within 5 or 10 minutes, and I was able to write my report while the officer worked with police down the road on finding the truck. He took some pictures of my car, asked me some questions, and talked a lot on his phone.

After about 40 minutes he said that the police in the next state had found the truck and pulled it over. The truck driver denied everything, but placed himself at the spot of the accident at the right time and I believe the other officer must have found some of my paint on the guy's lugnuts. I guess in this case it helps that my car is bright yellow.

I was on my way home from work, so I was wearing my Army uniform and every so often people would drive by and shout, "Thank you for your service!" Who does that? I guess you can't knock them for expressing their feelings, but who drives by what is either a traffic stop or an accident scene and yells that at the person interacting with the officer?

Once all that happened I called my insurance company to start my claim and see about a tow home. The damage is really probably all cosmetic, but I didn't want to take any chances and I really didn't feel like driving myself home. We were moving pretty slowly when it happened, so I don't think I am injured at all, but I was starting to ache from being tensed up with anger and stress. The officer gave me the preliminary report, told me that he was sending a citation off to the truck driver, and rode off on his motorcycle. I was expecting a 30 or 40 minute wait for the tow truck, but it showed up after about 15 minutes and took me and my car home.

Now I get to work with my insurance company to see if I can get the truck driver's insurance company to fix my car. Since the other guy was issued a citation and my car isn't exactly a luxury automobile, I am hoping it will be a pretty quick process.

I picked up this Danica Patrick relic card from 2013 Topps Showcase from eBay with my October eBay Bucks certificate. It's got a little piece of sheet metal embedded in it and is numbered # 12 / 20. Danica was running pretty well in tonight's Bank of America 500 race until Joey Logano put her into the wall and she fell back in the pack, finishing 26th. Her green and pink car looked pretty sharp out on the track. I hope I can pick up the die-cast of it at some point in the future.