31 March 2016

Going Back to the Farm

Jon Singleton got optioned back down to AAA again this week after performing poorly in Spring Training and losing the Astros first base job to Tyler White, a prospect who hit well throughout the spring and earned the job. I guess that makes this as good a time as any to share my latest Jon Singleton pickup.

This is a 2014 Panini Elite Status die-cut autograph card. It's the Gold parallel of this card and is numbered # 12 / 49, and in typical fashion it is a card I already own a copy of. It was cheap, so I picked it up without really looking to see if it was a need for my collection. I guess his cards will continue to be cheap to obtain, as Singleton can't seem to get it done at the MLB level. Hopefully he'll be able to mash at the AAA level and find an opportunity to get playing time somewhere.

30 March 2016

2014 Topps Stadium Club Members Only Trevor Rosenthal

Kind of a short post today. I have been sick since last Thursday evening, and it seems to be the sort of thing that just hangs around for a while. I hope to get over it soon, as I have some busy times ahead of me and I need to be able to do more than sleep this coming weekend.

Today's card is another 2014 Topps Stadium Club Members Only parallel. These cards were not serially-numbered, but there were rumored to be less than 10 copies made of each. I've been picking them up when I can, and I've probably got a couple dozen of them now. I'll never be able to get most of the big names and Hall of Famers, but I've have pretty good luck at tracking down the other players on the checklist. This one features Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals' closer. He's been pretty good during his career so far, with the only real knock against him being his WHIP, which is a little higher than you usually see on an elite closing pitcher. He still manages to get the job done, though.

29 March 2016

2011 Leaf National Hulk Hogan Promo Card

Apparently there is a big WWE event this weekend. I am a bad wrestling fan, as I don't think I've ever seen a Wrestlemania event. One thing I have gotten into, though, is the WWE SuperCard app on my phone. It's a collectible card game in which you build a deck of wrestlers, train them up, and play your deck against other players' decks in order to gain better wrestlers. There are a couple of events that are open all the time as well as rotating community events with better cards to chase. It's a fun diversion, and the gameplay keeps me more engaged than traditional collecting apps like Bunt, Dunk, and Star Wars Card Trader.

I picked up this Hulk Hogan card from eBay recently. The Hulkster has has a pretty wild run in the media and in life recently, leading to the WWE pretty much writing him out of their history. I can't do that, because to me Hulk Hogan is professional wrestling. He may not be the greatest person outside of the ring, but his in-ring persona was everything that professional wrestling was supposed to be. I think the picture on this 2011 National Convention promo card is perfect, featuring Hogan wearing his 'Hulk Rules' bandanna, his iconic mustache, a dark tan, a gold chain, some Macho Man sunglasses, and a too-small shirt advertising his 24" biceps.

28 March 2016

Breaking it Down 32: 2016 Topps UFC High Impact and a Consolation Prize

I participated in a couple more UFC breaks over at Team Breaks. I didn't really get much, but since I bought the Parallels and Inserts spot from a box of 2016 Topps UFC High Impact I was guaranteed at least a couple of cards.

I got two Blue parallels, including this Carlos Condit card. He lost a title fight by split decision recently against Robbie Lawler at UFC 195, which is the title shot referenced in the card back text.

Joe Lauzon has a bit of a spotty record when it comes to wins and losses, but he earns a lot of bonuses for having exciting fights.

My Femme Fighter insert features Carla Esparza, the inaugural Invicta FC strawweight champion and the inaugural UFC strawweight champion. She held the UFC belt for about four months before losing it to Joanna Jędrzejczyk. She's been out for a while after getting shoulder surgery.

Those weren't the greatest cards in the world, but that happens more often than not in group breaks. I had a few other spots in that night's breaks, but I went hitless on all of them.

Sometimes when your card stack seems a little small the guy who runs the breaks will toss in a Mystery Envelope. A mystery envelope is pretty straightforward. It's an envelope with a relic or autograph in it. Pretty much anything could be in there. He tossed a Mystery Envelope in with my High Impact cards, and the card inside was this Dynamic Duels Dual Relic Card of Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez from 2015 Topps UFC Knockout. It's numbered # 098 / 188. Neither fighter is someone I really follow or collect, but it's nice to get a surprise hit that I wasn't expecting.

27 March 2016

A Josh Wise Autograph Pickup

Most of my NASCAR content lately has been Danica Patrick-centric, but there are a couple of other drivers whose cards I collect. One of those drivers is Josh Wise, who currently drives the #30 car for The Motorsports Group.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, California18-20 March, 2016, Fontana, California USAJosh Wise and Michael Annett© 2016, Nigel KinradeNKP
Posted by TMG - The Motorsports Group on Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wise seems to be a pretty good driver, but thus far has only been able to get into some under-equipped rides and generally spends most races either not finishing or running in the bottom 5-10 cars. It's got to be tough to be out there at the end of the pack week after week, but I guess at least he's still getting paid to be a race car driver and not out looking for a 9 to 5 job somewhere.

I did a search for his cards a couple of weeks ago and found quite a few deals on some things, especially once I factored in combined shipping with people selling multiple Wise items. One of the highlights from my searching was this autograph card from 2013 Press Pass Ignite. The autographs from this set are designed to scan as poorly as possible, turning the card background into a murky dark mess while highlighting the signed sticker and whatever bits of stuff are on the scanner glass. This card is actually quite attractive in-hand, as the dark mess in the center is a silver sunburst pattern surrounded by a nice blue color. The card is numbered # 10 / 25, which probably makes it some kind of parallel. Ever since Press Pass went under it is hard to look up their checklists for print runs and parallels.

The back of the card features the usual congratulatory text and a cropped version of the photo that was on the front. Pretty basic stuff. Just as I hope Danica Patrick can move into consistent top 15-20 finishes, I hope that Josh Wise can progress with his new team and move up into the 20's with his car. Getting faster requires money, though, and you need sponsorships to make money. It'll be a tough road for him, but hopefully he can grind it out and stay in a car.

26 March 2016

Pack of the Day 132: 2016 Topps UFC High Impact

Topps recently released an online-exclusive UFC set called High Impact. I wanted to try it out, so I ordered up one pack from their e-store to see what I could pull. The base checklist is decent and there are some potentially good autographs as well as quite a few lesser signatures.

Here is my crappy photo of the box front with the shrink wrap still on it. The lighting in my house is terrible for photography, and my lack of skill just magnifies the issue.

Here is my blurry photo of the back of the box. There are 20 cards in a box, broken down as 16 base cards, 2 parallels, 1 Femme Fighters insert, and one autograph. Blue parallels are unnumbered, Red parallels are 1:11 boxes and # / 8, and Gold parallels are # 1 / 1 and seeded 1:34 boxes. 

The cards all come in a plain silver pack inside the box. Nothing too crazy there.

Here's a look at a horizontal base card. It's pretty standard for a Topps UFC card product. I would like to see more stats or something on the card backs. The UFC website has plenty of strike charts, percentages for submissions / TKOs / decisions, and similar stuff. I wouldn't think it would be too hard to come up with something like that.

Almost all of the cards are cut wrong, with the top and bottom slanted a bit from the sides. They're more parallelogram than they are rectangular. I already purchased a base set from an eBay seller who had a good price on the cards, so these are all extras for me.

The horizontal cards are pretty similar to the vertical ones. The backs are oriented in the same direction as the fronts. You can't sell Ronda Rousey base cards for a mint these days, but you could probably get enough out of it to cover shipping and eBay/Paypal fees.

One thing the horizontal cards are better for is showing in-fight photos. For the most part the vertical shots feature introduction or post-fight individual pictures, but the horizontal pictures give enough space to show fighters throwing a punch or kick.

In some sets this can be a little confusing, but I think in this set you can pretty much tell that the fighter whose face you can see is the one named on the card. I think it was Champions or Chronicles this year that had the same photo on both fighters' cards. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is pretty popular among the collectors these days, so I didn't do too bad as far as base cards go.

My two parallels were the basic Blue version. To distinguish them they took the white fade from the base cards and colored it. I got a Red parallel in a box break the other day, but it hasn't shipped yet. I would imagine it looks like these, only Red. No holofoil or anything. You can kind of see on the Luke Rockhold card that these are cut diagonally just like the base cards. My parallels are both fighters whose base cards I pulled. I'm not sure if that is a regular thing, but with 16 base cards out of a 50-card set the odds are pretty good that you'll get matches.

My Femme Fighters insert is Holly Holm, a pretty good pull from this box. This insert set has 20 cards on the checklist. You only get one per box and with the popularity of the female fighters in the collecting world this could wind up being a pretty expensive checklist to put together. There's an auction up with a Buy It Now of $150 for the 20-card set, which is about what I figured up as a good baseline for it. Another auction from the same seller with the same picture closed at $54, which is a steal in my opinion. I am kind of interested in watching the feedback of the seller to see if they backed out of that sale.

I came away with one of the better autographs on the checklist, pulling a Georges St-Pierre signature card. I definitely can't complain about that. I've seen a few box breaks of this product, and this is one of the best autographs I've seen pulled so far. His last fight was long before I started watching UFC, and incidentally that fight was against the guy on the first card in this post, Johny Hendricks. The one copy of this card that has been sold so far went for a bit more than I paid for the box, so this break overall is a win for me.

When it comes to High Impact I will probably quite while I'm ahead. There are some good autographs in the product and with a small checklist you have a decent chance of pulling a nice parallel or a good Femme Fighters insert, but ultimately it's a lottery ticket. I've seen ten or twelve boxes of this opened, and this was the best one out of that sample size. There are a couple of cards I still want from the set, but I will try to track them down on the secondary market.

25 March 2016

Pack of the Day 131: 2015 Bowman Blaster

Here is the danger of going to Target for a blaster of Topps Opening Day. Down on the bottom shelf is the box of discount blasters. Usually in my neck of the woods it's all hockey cards, a couple of Panini football releases, and maybe some Goodwin Champions. But on this day there was a lone blaster of 2015 Bowman Baseball in there with the 40% off sticker. There was also a blaster of something else that I recall looking too good to be true, and it was. It was a regular blaster that someone had stashed in there. I returned it to its rightful place and grabbed the Bowman blaster to 'think about it' while I walked around the store. I justified taking it home because it's a discount blaster of a product that can be fun to open. I've generally had decent luck with Bowman.

Here are the listed odds, for those who are into that kind of stuff. Definitely a lot more going on in this product than you find in Opening Day. Heck, this Bowman stuff has three different base sets in it.

The first base set features Veterans. One thing that I'd never noticed before is that the blank white corners are on the left for this portion and on the right for the Prospects set. That makes sorting a little easier. I just scanned a few of the base cards from each section. I hear that Mookie Betts is a pretty big deal in Boston. The fantasy baseball folks are expecting big things out of him. Houston traded for Ken Giles to shore up a bullpen that was pretty shaky at times last season. Andrew McCutchen is a superstar. Billy Hamilton runs fast, but he needs to get better with a bat. He always gets drafted too early in fantasy because of the dazzling stolen base numbers he can put up, but he hurts you in four other categories. You can always find speed lower in the draft and on the waiver wire.

In the Prospects section of the set I got two of the bigger names in Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant. Not too bad. I also got some of those Yankees, like Greg Bird and Luis Severino. I keep wondering if Zippy Zappy is going to rename his blog again, from Cervin' Torren' Up Cards to Severinoen' Up Cards. It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? To be fair, Severino is slated to be on the big club Yankees this year and thus not really in Zippy Zappy's wheelhouse. I call that a missed opportunity.

The Chrome Prospects portion of the break was mostly guys I've never heard of, or at least never given much thought to. I recognize Hunter Harvey's name, although I don't know anything about him. Mark Appel was one of the guys the Astros gave up to get Ken Giles. I chose Josh Bell because I like the Pirates' uniforms and Buddy Borden because his name is Buddy and his full name is almost as good as Buddy Boshers.

Now we're getting into the shiny stuff from the break. These are all from the The Farm's Finest Chrome Minis set. The Bradley Zimmer and the Renato Nunez on the left are base models, while the Nick Tropeano card on the right is a Blue Shimmer Refractor, which falls 1:175 packs. 

The really cool thing about these cards is that they feature lists on the back of the organization's top prospects. According to these lists, the Indians have several highly-ranked outfield prospects, the Oakland A's have a mix of guys, and the Angels are pitcher-heavy (as of the time this set was designed in 2015). The Nick Tropeano card is serially-numbered # 066 / 150.

Here's another list-based insert, the Bowman Scouts' Top 100. I've always liked this insert set, but I haven't ever realistically thought about putting one of the annual checklists together. I still like pulling them, though. Joc Pederson is a decent pull. He made the All-Star Game last year, but will probably need to bump up that batting average a bit and / or hit a butt-ton of home runs. He's having a pretty good spring so far.

I think this is the basic Chrome Prospect Refractor parallel of Jen-Ho Tseng's card, which is a surprisingly tough pull at 1:53 packs. In 2015 Topps went to a model of really cutting back on the colored parallels in the Bowman and Chrome brands. I wasn't really a fan of the move, as those products really kind of live and die on cards with colorful borders. I don't know much about this guy, as he's only 21 years old and buried way down in the Cubs' A+ club. The card is serially-numbered # 079 / 499.

This blaster wasn't quite done giving up decent stuff, though, as I also got an autographed card of Alex Balog. He appears to still be in the Rockies' system, pitching for their Modesto A+ club in 2015 and also in winter ball in Australia. He's not even projected to be in the majors for a while, if he even gets there. He lists The Great Gatsby as his favorite book, which makes him either a liar or a nerd. This autograph is the Silver parallel, numbered # 018 / 499. They are seeded 1:144 packs, which makes this another pretty tough pull.

I can't complain too much about this blaster. I got some decent cards among the base stuff, a couple of good inserts, and three relatively scarce serially-numbered cards. That's not too bad for a discount blaster. The hits probably aren't good enough for me to say, "I made my money back on this break," but maybe if you combine them with the Bryant and Correa base cards and add in the rest of the cards and squint real hard you could make a case for it. Breaking Bowman is a lot more fun than it should be, but it would be even more fun with a little more color in the box. Maybe I am looking at the past with rose-colored glasses and Bowman has always been this way, but I seem to recall a bit more shiny and colorful stuff in previous years of the product.

24 March 2016

Pack of the Day 130: 2016 Topps Opening Day Blaster

I went out a couple of days ago and got myself a blaster of 2016 Topps Opening Day. If you've been reading my blog recently you know that I recently purchased some 2016 Topps Heritage and went on a big rant about how buying retail packs is a huge waste of money. And that's still true when it comes to Heritage, mostly because of my expectations and my desired end-state with that product. Opening Day is a different animal just because it's cheap and fun and my expectations are lower.

The box says that it has 10 packs plus 1 extra pack. I couldn't tell which was which, so I am going to just lump them together and say it has 11 packs. Opening Day doesn't have a lot to it. You get one regular parallel, one super rare parallel, printing plates, some photo variations, a number of easy inserts, 2 slightly more difficult inserts, and some autographs and relics. The Mascot Autographs are arguably the big draw here, although the player autograph and relic checklists have some good names on them. Really, with the autograph checklist being so small and the odds being what they are, you could open about 4,665 packs and have a pretty good chance of having yourself a Kris Bryant or Carlos Correa autographed card.

I didn't scan all the base cards, but I picked out a few of the cards that stood out as I sorted through the stack. I've noticed that Budweiser signs are popping up more often in the background of cards. I know that there are periods when that stuff gets whitewashed out of trading cards, but I guess maybe that's gone out the window. Toronto should put up a statue of Bautista and find a way to suspend the bat so it just sits in the air and spins.

That method would probably require the bat to spin too fast, but I'm sure they could find some way to have it just spin lazily.

Here are another few standouts from the box. I like that Garcia photo, with fielding shot and the high socks. I hear that Kris Bryant guy is fairly popular. Jean Segura's bunting image is pretty nice, too, with the ball in the frame of the photo. I had to include R.A. Dickey because he's one of my main PC guys and I didn't get a lot of those among the base cards.

The Opening Day Edition blue foil parallels are marked on the packs as being serially-numbered and we all just take for granted that they are numbered to the year of the card, just like the Gold parallel in flagship Topps, but they aren't numbered. They are shiny and blue, though, and since I've collected this set each year since I got back into collecting in 2013 I am chasing this year's set. I already had these two cards, so this box wasn't any help in that regard. I bought one big lot on eBay and another on Just Commons, so I'm currently 35 cards away from finishing the set. I have Kris Bryant, but I am missing a lot of other big names like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, and some of the rookies who are selling for more than they're worth (in my opinion).

The Striking Distance insert features players who are close to hitting certain statistical milestones. I got Miguel Cabrera and Francisco Rodriguez. The Heavy Hitters insert features players with powerful bats. I've got Miguel Sano on one of my fantasy baseball teams, so I hope he does some heavy hitting this season.

Superstar Celebrations shows players celebrating, usually by getting mobbed, pied in the face, or having some beverage dumped on them. It's a good fun insert for this kind of card set. Although I am in favor of a little bit of flair and bat flipping and face-pieing, something about the home plate mob bugs me. I haven't nailed down what exactly it is about that specific practice that bothers me, but I don't like it. Maybe I'm just part curmudgeon.

I like the Alternate Reality insert, which shows and discusses some of the alternate uniforms baseball teams wear. I probably couldn't have asked for three better players in this box, either. Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, and Carlos Correa are three of the hottest young players in the game right now. They should combine for about 3000 hits this year, with half of those being home runs.

One big calling card of Opening Day is mascot content. The mascot autographs are pretty desirable hits, but a lot of collectors chase the Mascots insert set. Neither of these mascots is a personal favorite of mine, but I could see myself chasing down the set.

I didn't get any of the 1:36 Bubble Trouble cards, but I did pull a 1:24 Opening Day Stars insert of Clayton Kershaw. Past iterations of this insert were shiny and lenticular, and I'm kind of disappointed that Topps did away with that. This card is more rare than the other inserts, but there isn't anything special about it to set it apart. I want my lenticular cards back!

Opening Day is just about the perfect card set, in my opinion. I think it could be perfect if Topps added a couple of intermediate parallels like one # / 50 and one # / 250 or something, brought back lenticular cards, added one superstar and one gimmick insert that were pretty tough to pull (like 1:288 packs or something), and increased the checklist a little for the relics and autographs. It would basically be combining some of the best things about today's cards (parallels, autographs, relics) with the best things about the 90's cards (gimmicky inserts, hard-to-pull inserts).

I was pretty happy with this box of cards. There wasn't anything crazy amazing in it and the blue foil parallels were ones I already have, but I got a few nice inserts and had a good time looking through the base cards. This is the one set I could see myself chasing through pack purchases, although I wouldn't have nearly all of the Opening Day Stars and Bubble Trouble cards before I had multiple base sets.