18 January 2019

Who do You Think of First?

It's been a little while since I posted anything here. I've been mired in a deep depression for a long time, and the last few months it's about all I can do to get up in the morning and go to work, and when I get home I mostly just feel like going back to bed. I somehow managed to get through my first semester of graduate school. I finished with two B+ grades, but I probably did not deserve them. I guess if you manage to get the assignments turned in eventually, then they have to pass you to keep their numbers looking good. My next class just started, and hopefully things will be easier with just one course to keep up with. I am still doing hobby stuff, but most of my online posting has been on my Twitter account. It is easier to toss out a few Tweets than it is to compose an entire blog post.

I decided to try out the recent challenge that's been going around the blogs, naming the first player who comes to mind when a team is mentioned. In looking at my results, you can tell that I am relatively new to collecting baseball cards, as many of the players I listed are current or recently retired players. My basketball list would probably trend a bit older as far as names go. I can also see that players I've read about recently come to mind over players that I might be a fan of, like Manny Ramirez for the Red Sox. With the Hall of Fame voting going on, I've seen his name in print a lot lately.

Baltimore Orioles - Chris Davis hit a bunch of home runs for my fantasy teams, and then I drafted him a few more times to chase those numbers. He always wound up killing my teams' batting averages, though, more than he helped with the other stats.

Boston Red Sox - I don't have a lot to say about Manny Ramirez, but he was the first guy to come to my mind when I thought of the Red Sox.

Chicago White Sox - Jim Thome is the guy I thought of here.

Cleveland Indians - For some reason my brain completely shut down here. I couldn't think of a single Indians player, so after a minute I moved on. Later I came up with Francisco Lindor and Larry Doby in the same thought.

Detroit Tigers - Miguel Cabrera, although I had a hard time thinking of a Tiger, too. Maybe I was just in a funk for a couple of minutes.

Houston Astros - Jose Altuve is one of the best current players on my favorite team, so it makes sense that I would think of him here.

Kansas City Royals - I always liked Country Breakfast, so Billy Butler was a natural choice here. I feel like he got pushed out of the league a lot faster than maybe he deserved, but maybe he was done with it and decided not to keep pushing. I don't know. He is apparently a member of a rec league softball team in my state. That makes me want to go on a road trip, but actually following through might make me a little bit creepy.

Los Angeles Angels - Mike Trout pretty much is the Angels right now, although Shohei Ohtani is the hot hobby commodity of the moment.

Minnesota Twins - One of the baseball cards of my youth that is seared into my memory is Paul Molitor's 1990 Topps card, which pictures him as a Brewer. But that doesn't matter here, as his name came up in my mind for the Twins.

New York Yankees - I'm kind of surprised that Gleyber Torres or Aaron Judge didn't jump out at me first, but Gary Sanchez was the name that popped out of the randomizer here. I must have been sorting one of his cards or something recently.

Oakland Athletics - There's an anecdote floating around out there about someone overhearing Rickey Henderson giving himself a pep talk after striking out, saying something like, "It's okay, Rickey. You're still the best." I use that quote a lot when things aren't working out for me. I don't even care if it's true.

Seattle Mariners - Ichiro is one of the bigger names to play for the Mariners, and I associate him with the team more than most players, even Ken Griffey Jr.

Tampa Bay Rays - Chris Archer was the only guy I could think of right off. He finished 2018 with the Pirates, but spent a lot of time with the Rays.

Texas Rangers - Nolan Ryan played for a few teams, including my Astros, but I associate him most with the Rangers.

Toronto Blue Jays - It was a pretty big deal for Jose Bautista to really break out with the Blue Jays, and he had some big moments with the team.

Arizona Diamondbacks - Paul Goldschmidt would have been the other guy here, but I thought of Randy Johnson first.

Atlanta Braves - Chipper Jones was the guy here. He recently went into the Hall of Fame, and also was in the news for rescuing people in his 4x4 during a storm.

Chicago Cubs - There are plenty of famous Cubs, but I thought of Anthony Rizzo first.

Cincinnati Reds - I lived in Ohio during the peak of Eric Davis' career, so for me he has always been the guy for the Reds.

Colorado Rockies - Todd Helton won the brain game here, probably because of the Hall of Fame balloting talk, and whether he and Larry Walker will ever get in due to the Coors Field bias.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Yasiel Puig popped up here for me. His cards were big just as I was getting back into card collecting, and he often makes the news for silly reasons.

Miami Marlins - Alex Rodriguez Derek Jeter is the ringmaster, and the Marlins are his circus. That franchise was already kind of a joke, but adding him to the mix didn't help things along. (Apparently I somehow got A-Rod and Jeter mixed up in my head. A-Rod is the clown, but the Marlins are Jeter's circus.). Whatever the reason, Alex Rodriguez was the name that popped into my head first when I thought of the Marlins.

Milwaukee Brewers - Robin Yount came up here, probably because he's had a number of pretty sweet baseball cards issued, like the Stadium Club one with the dirtbike on it.

New York Mets - Thor and his magnificent hair had to show up here. Noah Syndergaard has a cool name.

Philadelphia Phillies - I noticed that I missed a letter in Mike Schmidt's name on the list. I considered going back and fixing it, but I didn't want to go back and make edits on the original document. I was just telling my son with the behavioral problems that it's okay not to be perfect, so I am trying to practice what I preach.

Pittsburgh Pirates - Starling Marte steals a lot of bases when he is not suspended for PEDs, so he's been on a few of my fantasy teams. Also his first name is a bird.

San Diego Padres - I was trying to think of the catcher who hit a triple at the game I went to in San Diego last year, missing a grand slam by inches, but couldn't come up with Luis Torrens' name, so I defaulted to Tony Gwynn.

San Francisco Giants - I wanted to think of Madison Bumgarner first here, but I'd been sorting cards and Buster Posey was in all the sets I was sorting, so his name was stuck in my brain.

St. Loius Cardinals - Chris Carpenter? Okay, I guess his name made a lasting impression on me at some point in my life.

Washington Nationals - Future Yankee (or Phillie) Bryce Harper has been dominating the free agent talk lately, so he's the guy here.

That's all the teams. I was surprised by a few of the names on my list, but overall I don't think there is anything too crazy here. I am not sure why Chris Carpenter was my guy for the Cardinals, but that's probably about as odd as my list got. I am still kicking myself for the error in Mike Schmidt's name.

Here's a blank back card I picked up of Bartolo "Big Sexy" Colon from the Topps Vault eBay store a while ago. I hope he comes back next year, even for a few starts here and there. He's really close to 250 wins.

Like many of my other recent acquisitions, I showed this card off on Twitter, but here it is on Blogger. I don't know how often I'll knock out a post on here in the near future, but I will try not to let this blog die off completely.

19 November 2018

Pack of the Day 192: Two Boxes of 2018 Topps Archives Snapshots

I ordered two boxes of 2018 Topps Archives Snapshots. I was going to order more of it, but I watched some breaks online and they were mostly pretty brutal. That prompted me to stick with a 2-box break.

Each box has 12 cards total, with one of them being an autograph. There are a number of parallels available, as well as parallels of the autographed cards.

The cards are packed in a clear plastic bag. The box promises a look at photos from the Topps Vault. That means a lot of posed shots. If there are cards with action photography, I haven't seen them yet.

You do get a mix of rookies, veterans, and retired players in the checklist. I like the design of the cards, although I like cards better when the player's position is somewhere on the front.

The cards have a glossy front, which goes well with the photographs. I was happy to see an Astro in this first box, with an appearance from Carlos Correa.

I think the Black & White parallels, like that Amed Rosario card, are one per box. Tyler Mahle doubles up in this box, which gives a look at the difference between the base cards and the autographs. Having on-card autographs is nice. I think stickers would look pretty tacky on this set.

Starting off the second box is a bunch of retired players. John Olerud shows what the backs of the cards look like.

Pretty cool to get the Shohei Ohtani card in this box. Rick Ankiel is an interesting addition to this set. He is attempting to make a comeback as a left-handed relief pitcher. He was the first player since Babe Ruth to win 10 games as a pitcher and hit 50 home runs as a batter. Ohtani has 4 wins and 22 home runs. I wonder if he will make it to 10 and 50?

There are some pretty nice cards here, with Gleyber Torres and a Black & White parallel of Rafael Devers. The autograph in this box is Paul DeJong.

So that's the break. I like the base cards enough that it would be fun to collect the whole set. I don't think I would like to build the set through opening boxes, though. You get ten base cards per box, so you need at least 5 boxes with perfect collation to build a set. It is likely that you would need many more, because collation is unlikely to be perfect.

11 November 2018

Pack of the Day 191: Three Boxes of 2018 Topps UFC Chrome

One of my favorite products to break from last year was 2017 Topps UFC Chrome, so this year I ordered in three boxes of 2018 Topps UFC Chrome to get a good look at it. I didn't take pictures of the packaging like I usually do for these posts. I anticipate that this will be kind of a bare-bones 'look at the pictures' kind of post, but sometimes I get unintentionally wordy. I started an MBA program recently and my brain is kind of fried. I took on a little too much in my first semester, with two 8-week courses at once. I won't be taking two courses at a time again, that's for sure. I don't know how I got through my undergrad while working full-time, but over the last three weeks I've realized that I can't pull all-nighters like I could in my twenties and earlier-thirties.

There are 100 cards in the base set, which covers most of the big names and rookies in the UFC. One notable name that is missing entirely from the checklist is Ronda Rousey, as she has moved over to the WWE. Rousey and Conor McGregor are both missing from the autograph checklist, so the primary drivers of UFC card prices over the last couple years are missing from the key draw in Chrome, on-card autographs on shiny stock.

You get about 70 cards from the base set in a box with no duplicates, so it will take two boxes to build the set. Demetrious Johnson was recently traded to another MMA organization, and UFC is shutting down their Men's Flyweight division.

Photo variations are one per box, with a 10-card checklist. One problem with my new method of photographing cards instead of scanning them is that my phone and hands are always reflected on the shiny cards.

The photo variations focus on UFC personalities with long-standing popularity and/or success. The only female on the variation checklist is Octagon Girl Arianny Celeste.

You get eight basic Refractors per 24-pack box. They are satisfyingly shiny. I took pictures of all 24 from my three boxes. At least it gives you a pretty good look at some more base cards from the checklist.

Most of the photography in this set is pretty good, with plenty of nice dynamic action photos. I guess it would be kind of weird (and weirdly awesome) if Topps did a 1992 Bowman Baseball throwback set featuring UFC fighters in dress clothing.

Just as I get done talking about the dynamic photography, here are three dudes just standing around, although Reyes is flexing pretty hard and Machida looks like he means business. We also get Aldo's flying knee for good measure.

These are all doubles from the first scan, so I guess I really didn't need to take this picture. I did anyway, and now you get to see it.

Doubles of Paulo Acosta and Dominick Cruz bookend a Refractor of Arianny Celeste, which is not a double.

Aldo's flying knee makes another appearance, this time on the one-per-box Xfractor. They are unnumbered. The Green Refractors are numbered # / 99, like that Anthony Pettis with the ghostly dude in the lower left.

The Brian Ortega card is a Gold Refractor, numbered # / 50, and the one-per-box Blue Wave Refractors are numbered # / 75. That's a pretty nice shot on Khabib Nurmagomedov's card.

Here we get into the second box's colorful Refractors. Out of this batch, I guess the Joanna Jędrzejczyk Green is the best card, although it has a larger print run than the Tatiana Suarez or the Anthony Pettis cards.

I also got a printing plate from this box, the Yellow plate of Ovince Saint Preux. It's cool to pull a Printing Plate, but Yellow is the worst color and Saint Preux isn't a huge name.

Box 3 produced five more colorful Refractor parallels, with the usual Green, Blue Wave, and Xfractor pulls, along with another appearance by Ovince Saint Preux, this time on an Orange Refractor with a # / 25 print run.

The Notable Knockouts inserts come one per box and the name of the set pretty much lets you know what it's about. It's too bad I got two of the Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw cards, as these actually look pretty cool. It would have been nice to get a look at one of the other cards on the checklist.

You get 2-3 1983 Topps Design inserts per box, with the usual cast of fighters represented on the checklist.

That shinier Tony Ferguson on the right is a Pulsar Refractor. They are numbered # / 50. All of the inserts have three parallel levels, the Wave # / 99, the Pulsar # / 50, and the Superfractor # 1 / 1.

I got two Tier One inserts per box, doubling up on Daniel Cormier. I'll probably set one of those aside for whenever I can get a package out to San Jose Fuji.

These are the UFC Knockout Chrome inserts. I got some nice Pulsar Refractors in this bunch, with 'Thug' Rose Namajunas and another appearance by Daniel Cormier.

The last insert set before I get to the autographs is Museum Collection. Stipe Miocic makes three appearances here, although one of them is the Wave Refractor # / 99. I also got a base and a Wave Refractor of Georges St-Pierre. I came pretty close to pulling an Arianny Celeste card from every insert set, only lacking the 1983 Topps Design.

As promised, I got two autographs per box from my breaks. Supposedly there are Hot Boxes out there with special parallels and a third autograph in them. The Daniel Cormier signature was the only colored Refractor autograph I pulled. It's an Orange # / 25, which is pretty cool.

Tyron Woodley is the current Welterweight Champion, and Dominick Cruz is a former Bantamweight Champion. He's still ranked as the #2 contender at Bantamweight, but in another month it will be 2 years since he last fought.

It wouldn't be one of my UFC breaks without a Demetrious Johnson autograph, although I guess that might change now that he and the UFC have parted ways. Paul Felder is currently the #15-ranked Lightweight, and this is his 1st Topps autograph, which is something that usually carries a premium.

That does it for this break of 2018 Topps UFC Chrome. I like the product, and it is always a fun break. This year it just lacks a little of the excitement that came from chasing Rousey and McGregor autographs. No one has quite stepped up yet and been as universally popular as those two, although there is still plenty of star power for people who follow MMA a little more closely than the general populace. I'm not sure yet if I'll buy more boxes on the hunt for rare stuff or just cherry-pick singles online. You can get boxes pretty readily for $55, and if you buy a few at a time you can get that down to $50 per box. You're not likely to get your money back in cards, but there's some fun stuff in here.

21 October 2018

2018 Topps WWE Undisputed

Undisputed is the high-end wrestling offering from Topps. It comes on thick card stock and features 10 hits per 10-pack box, with 8 of those hits guaranteed to be autographs. I didn't buy a whole box, but I did snag some 2018 Topps Undisputed.

I found an online shop that was offering Undisputed by the pack at a reasonable price, so I ordered two packs. As I said before, each pack promises a hit among the five cards inside. Based on what I've seen, parallels are a little harder to come by this year, probably due to the fact that there aren't any parallels in the product that aren't serially-numbered.

Here are the pack odds. It's too late to send in a NPN request, as that expired at the end of September. I've been sitting on these photographs for quite a while apparently.

Most packs give you two or three base cards and one or two inserts. I like Sheamus, so that is a decent base card pull for me. I don't like Roman Reigns as much, but he seems to be pretty popular among wrestling fans. It is pretty nice to get an Andre the Giant appearance in this pack. He was one big dude.

Brock Lesnar irritates me, but I guess if a heel can get under your skin, that means they're doing their job well. The inserts I've seen all focus on 30 Years of Survivor Series and 30 Years of Royal Rumble. There may be other insert sets, but I doubt it. There's just not enough room in the checklist for much more.

The hit from this first pack is an Orange autograph of Jinder Mahal. He's not one of my favorite wrestlers, but he's a pretty big player on the current roster and I am happy to add his signature to my collection. I don't think I had previously acquired any of his signed cards.

I do kind of like his gimmick with the Singh Brothers. It's very much a video game set-up where the Singh Brothers are mini-bosses who pester you while you try to defeat the main boss, Jinder Mahal. They all play their roles very well. 

It's nice to get a Bayley card in the second pack, with a cameo appearance by Nia Jax. It is also fun to get a John Cena card in this pack. His new longer haircut kind of throws me for a loop, but that's just because it's different from what I'm used to seeing. Apparently I'm not the only person who was surprised to see it.

This pack also had a Royal Rumble card inside, with Lex Luger as the co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble.

I was pretty happy with the hit in this pack, a Green autograph of Charlotte Flair. This one is numbered # 02 / 50. The color splash on these parallels does some weird things to the wrestler photos sometimes, because it overlays the photos and changes their skin and clothing to that color.

This Nia Jax Blue parallel autograph was an eBay purchase. It is numbered # 22 / 25. I was also watching a Green autograph at the same time, but the Blue only went for a little more than the Green, despite having half the print run. It is a little bothersome that the blue ink of the marker blends in with the blue of the color splash, but I don't think it looks as bad on the actual card.

This last pack came from a group break I joined. It was a random pack box break, so there were 10 slots, and the packs from a box were randomly attached to a slot. I got some pretty decent base cards, with Alexa Bliss, Ruby Riott, and John Cena.

The hit of the pack would have been an awesome pull if it pictured a different wrestler. This is a Purple autograph of Dash Wilder, numbered # 4 / 5. I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I've had much worse results out of group breaks before.

Undisputed is a fun product, with a lot of on-card autographs and parallels to chase. I usually try to get a little of it each year, especially if my favorite wrestlers appear on the checklist.