21 April 2018

Blog Bat Around: My All Autograph Team

Zippy Zappy came up with the most recent Blog Bat Around idea, trying to build the best autograph roster possible using cards from your collection. His rules require you to trim your list down to a starting roster full of position players, a designated hitter, a starting pitcher, two relievers, and a closer. I looked at that and decided that instead I would try to build a full 25-man roster. I ran into a little trouble with filling out my pitching spots, but in the end I was able to build a full 25-man roster. It's made up of a mixture of my favorite players as well as the best guys I could find for a given position. If you just want to see which players I picked to match Zippy Zappy's format, you can skip past all the pictures and go to the bottom of the post.

Catcher - Craig Biggio

Craig Biggio played most of his career as a second baseman, but he played a few hundred games at catcher. That's good enough for me to justify placing him here in my roster. This beautiful autograph relic card came to me as a prize in a contest over at Collecting Cutch.

First Base - Wally Moon

Here's another guy who I'm playing out of position a little bit. He played 136 games at first base and his 1963 Topps cards lists his position as OF - 1B, so I'm putting him here. I just had a lot of outfielders on my list, and not a lot of good autographs featuring first basemen.

Second Base - Jose Altuve

I'm lucky I got this card recently, as it is my first autograph of the Astros' star second baseman, Jose Altuve. It's a nice-looking card, and it hasn't been featured here on my blog yet. He fits right in on an all-time roster, as the defending AL MVP.

Shortstop - Omar Vizquel

I think this card is still in my collection. I pulled it from a box of Topps High Tek. Vizquel may not quite be a Hall of Famer, but he'll be a solid defensive presence for my team. I kind of wish I had a Carlos Correa autograph for this spot, but I don't.

Third Base - Yangervis Solarte

Third base was kind of a black hole in my collection when it comes to autographs, so Yangervis Solarte is my guy here. So far this year, he's the 32nd-best hitter in fantasy baseball, although I imagine that ranking will fall a bit as time goes on.

Left Field - Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson was primarily a right fielder, but he made 834 appearances in left field. He won the 1958 NL Gold Glove award for his play in left field, so I think he'll do all right there for my team. I waited three years for Topps to send this Topps Archives redemption for a framed mini autograph, and by the time they sent it they couldn't be bothered to put the frame on it.

Center Field - Fred Lynn

Fred Lynn gets my center field spot. A lot of the autographs in my collection come from Topps Archives products, and this one is no different. This is probably one of the first autographs I pulled when I got back into collecting in the middle of 2013, and it even came out of a retail blaster. I have typically had terrible luck with retail breaks of Archives, but not this time.

Right Field - George Springer

Going back to the home team for The Raz Card Blog, we've got George Springer in right field. That's where he's made the majority of his appearances so far, so I didn't have to push him out of position to get him onto the roster.

Designated Hitter - Aaron Judge

I have a nice power bat in my DH spot, with Aaron Judge looking to follow up his monster rookie year with another great season. I pulled this autograph from a blaster of Gypsy Queen before Judge-mania really set in and baseball cards disappeared from store shelves.

Catcher - Evan Gattis

My back-up catcher is Evan Gattis. I had to find an excuse to get this card into this post, as it's one of my favorites from my collection. I went crazy on 2014 Topps Stadium Club, and this was a card I pulled from the product.

Bench - Bo Jackson

The potential of Bo Jackson was undoubtedly greater than the reality turned out to be, but I was at a very impressionable age when Bo Knows was everywhere. If there was a Hall of Hype, he could be one of the first guys inducted.

Bench - Josh Reddick

I couldn't get all of my main player collection guys onto this list, but I think Reddick will fit in just fine on this roster. I watched him hit a grand slam tonight to go along with another home run, so he's got power in his bat. He is better known for his glove, though, making acrobatic catches at the wall. I have autographed cards featuring him as an Astro, but I like the way this one from his time on the A's looks.

Bench - Francisco Lindor

I probably should have picked an infielder who plays more positions for this bench spot, but Lindor has been about as good as it gets at the shortstop position over the last couple of years. I guess my manager will have to work out those playing time issues.

Starting Pitcher 1 - Randy Johnson

I've got a pretty decent staff ace here in Randy Johnson. This is the other card in this post that hasn't been featured here on the blog yet. I got it a couple of months ago, but just haven't found the right moment to post it. He put up a lot of numbers, and was probably one of the most intimidating guys to ever step foot on the mound.

Starting Pitcher 2 - Phil Niekro

My second starting pitcher is another Hall of Famer, knuckleballer Phil Niekro. Batters should be suitably bamboozled by his offerings the day after facing Johnson's flamethrower stuff. 

Starting Pitcher 3 - Luis Tiant

I went with Luis Tiant as my next starter. I considered a couple of other guys for his spot, but I couldn't deny his career numbers and kept him in the rotation.

Starting Pitcher 4 - Roy Oswalt

Oswalt was one of the key pitchers during the Astros' last run to the world series, and for several years he was a perennial Cy Young contender. He never quite got there, with a large part of that thanks going to Randy Johnson. Not a bad guy to have as your fourth starter. 

Starting Pitcher 5 - R.A. Dickey

He might be the one guy who doesn't quite fit in here, but I can't keep R.A. Dickey off of this team. He does have a Cy Young to his name, although the rest of his career hasn't quite lived up to that. I still like collecting his cards, though, and I want him on my team. Maybe he and Niekro can share knuckleball tips with each other.

Relief Pitcher - Michael Fulmer

I had to bump a couple of starters down to my bullpen. Hopefully their egos can handle it. I'll start off here with the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. He should be able to handle long relief duties for this team.

Relief Pitcher - Jim Abbott

Jim Abbott may not have had the greatest career on paper, but I couldn't leave this fan favorite off of this roster. He was a career starter, so hopefully he'll be able to eat up some innings out of the bullpen.

Relief Pitcher - Kent Tekulve

Kent Tekulve is the first lifetime reliever in my bullpen, and he was a pretty good one. He spent a couple of years in the Cy Young conversation, made an All-Star appearance, and was a key part of the Pirates' 1979 World Series team. But the real reason he's on this roster is that he always looked awesome on his baseball cards.

Relief Pitcher - Rollie Fingers

Here's another Cardboard All-Star, Rollie Fingers. He's got a great baseball name and the mustache of a silent film villain. He had a Cy Youg award and some World Series rings, but if he gets into the Hall of Fame, there are probably a lot of other relief pitchers who should be in ahead of him. This Blog Bat Around isn't about who should and shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I'll still collect his cards and put him on my autograph team.

Relief Pitcher - Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton is another lifetime starting pitcher, but he pitched four innings of relief to close out Game 7 of the World Series last year, so you know he can handle the pressure. His career has been a bit bumpy, but he seems to have found himself in Houston, with a 17-7 record so far as an Astro.

Relief Pitcher - Billy Wagner

Billy Wagner is one of just six players with over 400 career saves, so he gets a spot in this bullpen. I probably should have made him the closer on the team, but he didn't quite make the cut, and instead will play the role of set-up man in my bullpen. He's a 7-time All-Star and a great Astro, so I had to include him on the roster.

Closer - Goose Gossage

Goose Gossage doesn't have as many saves as Billy Wagner, but he's in the Hall of Fame, he has 9 All-Star appearances, he's got a World Series ring, and he threw the ball really hard. He's pretty opinionated, but the eccentric closer is kind of a stereotype in baseball. You've got to be a little off to thrive in the pressure cooker of finishing off baseball games.

So that's the best 25-man roster I could come up with from my autograph collection. I'll type it all out here, and bold my choices if I stuck to Zippy Zappy's restrictions.

C - Craig Biggio
C - Evan Gattis
1B - Wally Moon
2B - Jose Altuve
SS - Omar Vizquel
3B - Yangervis Solarte
IF - Francisco Lindor
LF - Frank Robinson
CF - Fred Lynn
RF - George Springer
DH - Aaron Judge
OF - Bo Jackson
OF - Josh Reddick

SP - Randy Johnson
SP - Roy Oswalt
SP - Phil Niekro
SP - Luis Tiant
SP - R.A. Dickey
RP - Michael Fulmer
RP - Jim Abbott
RP - Kent Tekulve
RP - Rollie Fingers
RP - Charlie Morton
RP - Billy Wagner
CL - Goose Gossage

edit: I was so focused on the relative merits of baseball players that I forgot to include a card featuring the signature of a baseball player's relative! In the celebrity baseball fan spot of my roster, I am selecting Kate Upton, spouse of Justin Verlander, one of Houston's current ace pitchers.

Now my roster is complete. You can't have a good baseball game without some fans in the stands.

19 April 2018

Stan Sakai Book and Sketch

Someone in one of the art groups I follow on Facebook posted about a good way to get an autograph and quick sketch from artist Stan Sakai, creator of the long-running Usagi Yojimbo comic series. Sakai is selling copies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo crossover hardcover on his website, and each book ordered is signed and has a quick sketch inside. I don't know how long the deal will last, but here is the link if that's something you're interested in.

My book arrived today. Along with the book was this signed print featuring the cover art from Glimpses of Death, the 20th (of 32 so far) collected volumes of the comic.

Here is the cover of the book. The one Sakai is offering on his site is different from the regular cover. I am not sure how exclusive it is, but it is a variant cover. It's a nice hardback book. I was impressed by the quality of it.

Here is the sketch and the signature. Pretty cool stuff, and really cool as a free add-on for buying his book. He is a pretty big name in comics, and a lot of the bigger names will charge a significant amount of money for something like this.

I took a picture of a page from the interior where the Ninja Turtles and Miyamoto Usagi encounter each other. Pretty cool stuff. Just based on flipping through the book and looking at the art, I am looking forward to giving the book a read.

17 April 2018

Bat-Mite by Dave "Pops" Tata

I haven't shown a sketch card for a while, so here's a fun one I picked up last year.

The character is Bat-Mite, a seldom-seen character in the Batman universe. He has reality-altering powers similar to Mister Mxyzptlk, a Superman character who Bat-Mite is a manifestation of. I don't follow Batman too closely, so my description may be lacking some. The card comes from the Cryptozoic DC Comics Batman: The Legend set. The artist is Dave "Pops" Tata. I can't find a lot about Tata online, but he's got a page here for commissions. There's nothing on there newer than 2015, though, so I don't know anything about his current status. Most of his art pages seem to be a little outdated, but he does have a little bit of newer stuff on his Instagram page.

I was happy to land this sketch. It's well-done, and I didn't have any of Tata's art in my collection yet.

15 April 2018

2018 BBM Shining Venus

In addition to the box of 2017 BBM Shining Venus cards I showed yesterday, I also bought a box of the 2018 BBM Shining Venus set. Let's take a look at what's in a box.

Here is the top of the box. The format is similar to the 2017 product, with 20 packs in a box and 5 cards in a pack. The MSRP is 6,000 JPY (~$56.00) for a box and 300 JPY (~$2.80) for a pack.

The bottom of the box contains the checklist. This year's set has an 88-card base set. There are 84 cards in the familiar triad format (a Shining Venus, Playing Venus, and Venus Shot card for each athlete), with the last four cards being Legend Venus subset. The Legend Venus cards appear to be for retired athletes who are no longer going to be featured in BBM's Venus products. There are two parallels of the base set, one # / 100 and one # / 30. There is also a 9-card insert set called Venus Heart, and a number of special cards like autographs. The autographs listed that my phone can translate are regular, private, special, legend, combo, rookie, New Year, and Valentine's. There are probably others.

In my box, I pulled 76 / 88 base cards (86.4%), with 20 doubles. Again, it's going to take at least two boxes to complete a set of this product. The Shining Venus cards feature the athlete in a posed shot with their sports gear, the Playing Venus cards show the athlete in action, and the Venus Shot cards show the athlete in street clothes.

Some sports get featured more than others, but I am not sure how BBM decides which athletes to feature from year to year. There are two runners in this set, with Kana Ichikawa being one of them. There are also a couple of baseball players, a couple of basketball players, and a couple of climbers in this set.

Athletes who are making their first appearance in a Venus set get a Rookie Card logo on the front of their Shining Venus cards. I would probably buy a box of cards for a set featuring professional darts players. I've purchased BBM's offerings for bowling and curling, so it wouldn't be out of character for me. 

Speaking of curling, a curler appears in the Legend Venus subset. Each Legend only gets one card. This seems similar to the Hall of Fame subset in the True Heart wrestling sets, where notable wrestlers who retire during the previous year get one card at the end of the checklist.

I got two regular Venus Heart inserts and one parallel. The regular cards have a shiny gold finish to them, while the parallels have a holofoil shine and a serial number. My parallel of Iori Miura is numbered # 009 / 100.

I only got one autograph in this box, featuring lacrosse player Asuka Noo. Because of the serial number, I can tell this is a limited type of autograph rather than a base autograph. The base autographs have print runs of 79-120 cards each, while these limited autograph cards have print runs of 30-89 cards apiece. Google Translate tells me that this set is called Autograph Card (Private Version). This one is numbered # 31 / 60. I like how she included a lacrosse stick and her jersey number on the card.

In all, this was a fun break. The 2018 box was a little disappointing after opening the 2017 box because it had just one autograph and fewer limited cards inside. I would have liked to pull some more stuff from the box. True Heart has kind of spoiled me the last couple of years, with 6-7 autographs per box in that product.

14 April 2018

Getting Caught Up, and a Box of 2017 BBM Shining Venus

I've been trying to get caught up on things this weekend, and I spent a lot of today putting together a couple of overdue packages for other bloggers. There are still several that I am working on building, but it is nice to have a small stack of packages taped up with postage attached.

In addition to my usual annual BBM True Heart wrestling card boxes, I added some BBM Shining Venus cards to my order. Ryan G over at This Card is Cool has already broken this set down in great detail, but I'll talk about it a little here. Above you can see the top of the box. Each box has 20 packs, with 5 cards per pack. A little bit of numberology tells me that's 100 cards per box.

The bottom of the box has a checklist on it. There are 87 cards in the base set, 9 cards in an insert set, and some parallels and autographs.

Each subject in the set gets three cards. One is a Shining Venus card, the other is a Playing Venus card, and the last is a Venus Shot card. From what I can tell, the Shining Venus card is usually a posed picture of the athlete with her sporting implements, the Playing Venus card features an action photo, and the Venus Shot is a picture of the athlete in street clothes.

In the box I purchased, I got 78 / 87 base cards (89.7%) and 17 doubles. It was disappointing that I didn't get a full base set, but I kind of expect that from BBM products. If it's a pack-based product instead of a boxed set, you shouldn't expect a complete set from one box.

The subjects of the set are all women, and the checklist of sports is pretty extensive. There are traditional sports represented, like rugby and running, as well as niche sports that include unicycling and fin swimming. 

The set has foil signature parallels. I pulled one Gold Foil Signature parallel of Misaki Ogawa, numbered # 57 / 80. I think there is a more limited Rainbow Foil Signature parallel available. The insert set is called Sparkle Venus. That checklist is nine cards deep. I pulled two of them. They feature the athletes in street clothes and the cards have a shiny gold finish to them. There are silver holofoil parallels of this insert set, too, and those are serially-numbered.

I also got two autographs in the box. Both feature sticker signatures. The card on top has the signature of fin swimmer Satsuki Fujimaki. I believe it is the basic autograph. My copy is numbered # 017 / 117. The other signature in my box is a special Happy New Year! autograph. I think there are also Valentine's Day autographs. 2017 was the year of the Rooster, so there are a couple of roosters in the design of the card. These are more limited, and my autograph of basketball player Naoko Chikahira is numbered # 14 / 30.

This was a pretty fun product to sample. I don't know if I will pick up more boxes in search of a full base set, but I might. It is nice to get such a large variety of sports in one set. You don't really see that in the United States outside of Olympic years.

To continue the theme of catching up, I've had a few notable things happen in my real life. The first is joining the ranks of the tattooed. I'd been thinking about getting a tattoo honoring my military service for over a decade now, but the time never felt right. I actually went in to get it done about five years ago, but the tattoo artist wouldn't listen to what I was asking for and I walked away, waiting another five years for the right artist to come along. I got a flag and a unit combat patch done on my right shoulder, to mirror the flag and combat patch on that sleeve of my uniform. The names and dates are the years I deployed to Iraq, and the anarchy symbol with the 'M' inside is a brotherhood tattoo that several members of a unit I spent 13 years in got after our first deployment in 2004-05. I may add a background to tie it all together later, but I'm not in a hurry.

On the other arm I got an action scene featuring the four comic book characters that my kids are named after. This one isn't finished yet, as I still have at least one more session to get all the colors filled in.

The other big news recently is that we got another dog. My wife saw this Basset Hound puppy on Facebook, and she had to have her. Last weekend she drove several hours each way to pick the dog up, and so Poppy joined our family. She is three months old, and she is a lot of trouble. We're still working on her potty training, and she bites everything. Our yellow Lab likes her quite a bit, and they play together in spite of the massive size difference between them. My Basset Hound is old and grouchy, and he does not like the energetic little biting machine. He spends most of his time perched on top of furniture where she can't reach him.