30 May 2014

Raz' Ravings 5: Compounding on Poor Decisions

I have been somewhat eagerly awaiting the release of 2014 Topps Archives since it was announced, because I really enjoyed the 2012 and 2013 sets, even going so far as to put together the entire Gold parallel set from 2013 together. So I spent some time browsing the various online card sites the week before it released and saw that Dave & Adam's Card World was no longer offering pre-orders, and neither was Blowout Cards.

Instead of doing the obvious thing and waiting until release day, I panicked and spent the money I would have spent on a couple boxes of 2014 Archives on a bunch of cheap boxes from the Dave & Adam's Memorial Day sale. Upon hitting the 'submit order' button I immediately felt a twinge of regret, but I hoped that I would at least pull some decent cards from my boxes. I certainly did not, and due to my financial situation I knew that I would be hard-pressed to justify an Archives purchase anytime in the near future.

I could have resolved to take it all in stride and learn from my mistake, but I did not. I descended into the pit of self-pity and mourning, and browsed eBay for something that would ease my pain. I bid on an autograph card that was quite expensive, but that I knew would not fall to me. It fell to me and I had to pay for it. I will probably highlight it on this blog after it arrives, but for now it is only important that it was expensive and I should very much not have spent the money on it.

Then my hard drive crashed. Yuck! No matter if I replaced the hard drive or the whole computer, I would have been much better off had I not just spent a few hundred dollars on those cards. And the decision I had made to forego the boxes of Archives that I had really wanted just seemed that much worse.

I was able to recover enough money to pay for the autograph from a peer-lending investment account I dabble in as a hobby, and that made me feel a little better, but I really wanted some Archives. The prices on eBay and the online card shops were steadily rising and I continued to feel bad for myself. No matter the addiction, whether it is chemical or cardboard, depression is not a good thing to mix in with it. The local card shop posted to Facebook that they had 4 boxes in stock a couple of days ago, and today when I asked them if there was any left they responded that there were 3 remaining. I determined that I would stop there after work to see what the price was. If it was below the online prices, I would pull the trigger. If not, I would grab some top loaders or something and be on my way. Generally the guy prices his wax well above market value, so I fully expected to leave disappointed.

I went in to the shop, looked around a bit, petted the shop's dog for a while (he would bark at me every time I stopped petting him, so I had to keep going), and saw that he still had the three boxes left, and they were at a lower price than the online guys. I actually looked at his little pricing sign a couple of times to make sure. I went crazy on the inside, and told him I wanted some Archives. He asked me if I wanted the front, middle, or back box. I said, "I'll take the two in the back." While he rung up my purchase he mentioned that he had watched a guy bust a box earlier today and the guy had pulled a Jose Abreu short-print. I really hoped that an Abreu short-print would not be my box break highlight.

I decided that I would just open one stack of six packs from the first box. I have to admit that the card designs from this year aren't my favorite, and I miss the short-printed cards being reprints from a large variety of sets like they were in 2012 and 2013. But as I flipped through the third pack in the stack, this card showed up:

I had to look at it really hard to make sure that I wasn't having some fever dream. Then I had to be very careful not to accidentally crush it in my hand or ding it on some part of the car as I got out to go into the shop again and show it off. I was actually visibly shaking for about ten minutes after I pulled the card. The owner likes to take scans of big pulls and post them on his Facebook page, and I thought this might qualify.

He put it in a top loader for me and I went back out to my car to drive home. I thought I was beyond crazy emotional reactions to big pulls, but I obviously am not. With the way I have been feeling about cards and life in general lately, I really needed something good to happen to me. I don't know that I believe in destiny or anything like that. I just got a lucky break at a coincidentally fortunate time, but as I sat there getting ready to leave I thanked the stars that I had decided not to buy from the online guys and followed the impulse to check out the local shop. I also used my phone to see how much these things were selling for on eBay. I should get just about enough money from it to erase my bad card decisions of the past couple of weeks and get a new start from where I was. And that is plenty good enough for me. I don't have much interest in Charlie Sheen or his autograph, but it seems there are some folks out there who do. My copy has been up on eBay for about an hour now and already has over 40 bids and a price approaching $400. We'll see where it ends up a week from now.

I started this post a couple of days ago and it carried a much darker tone than it does in current form, because I hadn't yet had today's bout of good luck. Sitting here and thinking about it all, I can only be reminded of this scene from a popular film:

Rainbow in the Dark 20: A Small Pile of 2014 Bowman Josh Reddick Parallels

I got a bunch more Josh Reddick parallels from 2014 Bowman, and here they are in no particular order. Forgive me if I am not particularly wordy in this post. My computer's hard drive quit on me the other day (right in the middle of my first summer semester classes) and so I am composing this on my phone. It's not an ideal arrangement, to be sure. That's not actually the reason I've skipped a couple of days posting, though. The real reason is that I have suffered a bit of a personal hobby setback and I haven't fully processed it yet.

But while I work that out, the above card is the purple parallel, numbered # 03 / 10. The regular color parallels are not nearly as good-looking as the ice parallels, but I still need them all. 

Next up is the black-bordered version of the card, which is copy # 16 / 25. Sixteen is Reddick's jersey number, so this is a legitimate eBay 1 / 1. I don't think I paid that premium for it, though.

Often the more common parallels are among the last ones I acquire, because I know there will always be a couple of copies out there. But if I find them cheap I will gran them. With these cheap cards the key is usually in the shipping costs. You have to bundle them with other cards and get combined shipping or find a seller offering cheap shipping. This green parallel is # 093 / 150. 

This is the most common of the serially-numbered parallels, which are the blue-bordered cards and have 500 copies each. Mine is # 194 / 500. 

And finally, I got the Reddick blank-back card from the Topps Vault eBay auctions. That means I got the blank-backs for all three of my main player collections for this set and at least one # 1 / 1 card for each rainbow, even if they are gimmicky 1 / 1's. 

And that's it for this group of cards. Soon I will probably post something about this funk I've been in lately, get it out of my system, and be back to my regular posting schedule shortly thereafter. One thing that would help would be if I found some 2014 Archives here locally, retail or hobby. Resolving my computer issues would be helpful as well, as my stock of card scans went away with my hard drive, aside from previously-saved posts like this one and a few SEGA Card-Gen scans I have on my work computer. 

27 May 2014

Rainbow in the Dark 19: R.A. Dickey Blank and Silver

These rainbow things can get a bit addictive, and I think I may have gotten a bit ambitious in trying to work on 2014 Bowman rainbows for three players in R.A. Dickey, Josh Reddick, and Derek Holland. That hasn't deterred me, though, and I recently acquired this blank-back 1 / 1 for the Dickey collection. Like all the others, it comes encased in plastic with various Topps Vault stickers, embossing, holograms, serial numbers, and a certificate of authenticity for good measure.

I haven't figured out an elegant solution for storing all of my encased cards. They stick up out of the top of standard card boxes, they don't fit in the folding-lid style boxes, and I guess I may just have to put them in rows in some other kind of box. That leads to another problem, which is the fact that putting them in a separate location isolates my encased cards from the sets or mini-collections they belong to. One example off the top of my head is the Bryce Harper card from the 2013 Topps Archives Gold parallel set I built. It is graded and slabbed, and won't fit in the binder pages with the rest of them. Another problem is what to do with over-sized items like the certificates of authenticity that come with these blank-bank cards. Do I keep them in the box with the slabbed cards? Do I dare try to store them in the black hole that resides in my desk drawers? Do I put them on a bookshelf? I don't know what to do with them.

I also grabbed a copy of Dickey's Silver parallel. They look grey to me. I talked about how drab this year's crop of parallels feels compared to last year's Bowman release in my Derek Holland post of a couple days ago. Even the bright colors feel a bit muted, except maybe for the Yellow parallels. Maybe when Bowman Chrome releases there will be a welcome splash of color added to these rainbows.

My copy of the Dickey Silver parallel is numbered # 69 / 75.

In other R.A. Dickey-related news, I saw a couple of weeks ago that Topps' redemption update site had listed some of his cards as being filled. I checked the redemption site somewhat feverishly for a couple of weeks, and some shipping information finally posted. So hopefully by the end of the week I will have some nice redemption hits to post about.

26 May 2014

2013 SEGA Card-Gen Extravaganza 3: Cleveland Indians

Up next in the 2013 SEGA Card-Gen set are the Cleveland Indians, with 14 cards in the team set. Five players are featured wearing the uniforms of other teams. As usual, we kick things off with a catcher. If you like catchers and Card-Gen cards, Zippy Zappy over at Cervin' Up Cards just ran a post showcasing all of the catchers in the 2012 SEGA Card-Gen set. Go check it out.

Carlos Santana has been absolutely miserable this year. It's probably because I drafted him in one of my money leagues this season. And of course the second I move him to the bench in favor of Derek Norris, Norris goes 0 / 4 and Santana hits a home run. Fantasy baseball is a cruel game. Not as cruel as fantasy football, but it's a longer, slower kind of pain.

Mark Reynolds appears here in his Baltimore Orioles uniform. He led his league in strikeouts four years in a row with the Diamondbacks and Orioles. His home run totals during those four years were 28, 44, 32, and 37, which kept him in the lineup for the most part. In the year that he hit 44 homers he also stole 24 bases and hit .260, which is about 30 points higher than his career average. He spent part of 2013 with the Indians, played in a little over 30 games with the Yankees, and is currently being somewhat productive with the Brewers. I've always kinda liked the guy, even though the thing he's really good at in fantasy baseball is sucking the life out of your team's batting average. I will generally grab his cards when I find them, but I don't really seek them out on purpose.

At second base we have a decent action shot of Jason Kipnis. The back of his card says he is 'ready to shine,' and in 2013 he stepped up from his already pretty good 2012 numbers, with upticks in home runs, RBIs, and batting average. If your 2B can hit 15-20 home runs and steal 30 bases, you're doing pretty well. I got him on one fantasy roster this year, so he is currently on the DL with an oblique injury. He is supposed to be back soon, though, and hopefully will be able to come back a little better than the way he started off the year.

Mike Aviles come onto the scene in a pretty big way in 2008 with the Royals, but has had a hot-and-cold career since, spending time with the Red Sox before moving to Cleveland. As noted on the back of his card, his value seems to lie primarily in versatility. According to his Baseball Reference page, Aviles has made appearances at five positions this season, with the bulk of those being at second and third base. On this card he is pictured as a member of the Red Sox, although he was traded from the Red Sox to the Blue Jays and then, 13 days later, traded from Toronto to Cleveland.

Cabrera is pretty good, ranking as a top twenty-ish shortstop in fantasy baseball over the last couple of years. His peak thus far was his 2011 season, but he hasn't exactly fallen off a cliff and is still relatively young. He's got a little bit of power and a little bit of speed, which is generally a good thing coming out of the shortstop position in fantasy games.

Michael Brantley fills in the left field slot for the 2013 SEGA Card-Gen Indians. He is actually a pretty useful utility outfielder in fantasy baseball terms, filling in on days when your main guys aren't playing or are injured.

Here we have another Indian in another team's uniform, this time Drew Stubbs wearing Reds colors. He was in Cleveland for one season (2013) and is now doing okay in Colorado with the Rockies. I know next-to-nothing about the guy, though. It looks like he is putting up good numbers, but with limited playing time.

I am beginning to wonder if anyone in this team set is going to be shown in a Cleveland uniform. We're eight players into this thing and this is the fourth appearance by a non-Indians uniform. This time it is Nick Swisher, formerly of the New York Yankees.

Chris Olds, an editor over at Beckett (I'm sure he has some actual title like Chief Inflator of Book Value or something, but me = lazy) has a huge man-crush on Swisher. There are even rumors that he has used his position to inflate the (book) price of Swisher's cards, although as a player collector you would think he'd try to keep them depressed to hold down demand and get more Swisher cards for his dollar. I kind of like the look Swisher's got on his face here as he tosses his bat.

I don't know why this photo really wants to be right-aligned, but if I try to center it up then the whole post goes nuts. I could spend the rest of my evening fighting the formatting or I could finish this post up and have one photo out of alignment.

He went to high school in Beavercreek, Ohio. Why is that relevant? Because I lived there for a little while when I was young and my dad was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near there. Masterson had a good year in 2011 and a good year in 2013, so he is due to have another good year next year.

Okay, it looks like the right-alignment is a thing from now on. I guess I will deal with it. Ubaldo Jiminez can sometimes have an exciting strikeout rate, but his ratios will often kill your fantasy team. It seems like once I hit the pitcher portion of these posts I have largely run out of steam and don't have as much to say. Sorry about that.

Brett Myers appears on a few 'biggest jerks in baseball' lists and apparently once punched his wife in front of a crowd of bystanders. He isn't currently signed with any team.

Pestano was pretty good in 2011 and 2012. He was not so good in 2013, and didn't last long in 2014 before getting sent back down to find his consistency. In the good years he was an attractive fantasy pitcher because of his strong K/9 rate.

Oh, hi, Mr. Most Generic Name ever. He's a pretty consistent guy in the bullpen. I haven't heard much about him at all, and in the case of bullpen arms that's usually a good thing. The guy who blows a million leads is the guy whose name everyone knows. He's currently pitching for the Angels. Well, not right at the moment probably. But he's on their roster and pitches occasionally.

Chris Perez was the Indians' closer for a couple of years. He was more or less effective at the job, but it seems like some bad blown saves and a horrible relationship with the fans and media did him in. Now Cleveland doesn't really have a closer. I guess they liked having a lot of drama and uncertainty when it came to the ninth inning, so they gave the job to John Axford. That wasn't good enough, so they dropped him from the role and are working on a closer-by-committee which so far has done a pretty good job of spreading the blame around for blown games.

25 May 2014

Rainbow in the Dark 18: Derek Holland of the Texas Ovaries

I added a pile of cards to my 2014 Bowman Derek Holland rainbow. In a perfectly-ordered world I would have put them into this post in some rational order like least rare to most rare or where they fall in relation to each other on a color wheel or something, but instead I just put them in the order in which they were stacked on my desk. This first one is the Silver parallel, numbered # 39 / 75. I have to admit that the border colors on this year's Bowman parallels feel a little flat, but I don't recall the colors from last year's base set being that much more vibrant. I think I must have all of the Refractors from the Bowman Chrome release stuck in my head from last year as the root of that impression. Probably once this year's Bowman Chrome set comes out I will begin to see this year's rainbows as being just as colorful as last year's cards.

This is the Black parallel, which is limited to 25 copies. The one I got was # 07 / 25. One thing I like about this card over Holland's 2013 Topps card is that it features his sleazy mustache, which I believe he has since removed from his face.

I was able to secure the blank-back # 1 / 1 from the Topps Vault's eBay money machine. It's got the 1 / 1 sticker complete with hologram (counterfeit-proof!) and serial number, it's embossed with the Topps Vault logo, encased in plastic and sealed with a Topps Vault sticker...

...and it has a matching certificate of authenticity! So I do have a # 1 / 1 card for the Holland rainbow, but as it isn't something you can actually pull from packs I think it is excluded from true 2014 Bowman # 1 / 1 status and instead is in the category of 'related collectibles' or something. I don't know. I make up these rules on the fly.

Moving back toward the other end of the spectrum from # 1 / 1 discussion, we have the Orange parallel, which is numbered to # 241 / 250. Pretty fancy stuff. The one thing I still don't like about Bowman is the team logo placement / photo alignment. The team logos always seem to be planted somewhere in the crotch region. This can be especially embarrassing in certain scenarios. I believe last year David Ortiz had an interesting pair of dangling Red Sox. If you moved Derek Holland a couple inches to the left it would look like the Texas 'T' was a diagram of the female reproductive system printed on the front of his pants. 

And finally I've got the Gold parallel, which is # 17 / 50. There are still quite a few Holland parallels that I don't have, but this covers a good portion of the more common ones. I think I recently got his base card, too, which is an important but often overlooked part of the rainbow.