Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Busting a 2020 Topps Chrome Blaster

Yesterday I had to take my car in for service, and afterwords I was planning to grab some groceries. While I was waiting at the auto shop, I chugged down my morning coffee, while drinking a whole bottle of water. The coffee ran right through me and I was hit with the need for a restroom before grocery shopping. I was passing a Target, so I decided to pop in to use the facilities... and take a quick stroll down the card aisle. 

I live in a metropolitan area, and there are probably five or so Targets within 20 miles of me. All of them are almost always dry on retail products, although I've had some luck at this particular store before. Upon arriving in the card aisle, I was met with one of my collecting fears: It appears that the card aisle is being phased out. The amount of self space that was reserved for sports cards was smaller than usual. Pokemon cards and Magic the Gathering cards encroached on the left side. Toys crept in on the right side. 

I've read some rumors on hobby-Twitter that claim retail stores are going to stop stocking cards, primarily because the product is becoming more hassle than it's worth. Flippers clearing shelves, grown men acting like children, phony returns, etc. I'm not sure if there's any truth to these claims, but I will say, it does appear that my two go-to Targets are phasing out cards. The display spaces have shrunk in the past few weeks and have been replaced with non-sports cards and tchotchke toys. 

Depsite all of that bad news, I was very fortunate to find a Topps Chrome blaster yesterday. I swear - when you go to the store to specifically look for cards, you don't find them. If you pop in for a different reason and swing through the card aisle, you'll strike gold. I hope this isn't the last time I'll be able to buy baseball cards at a retail store like Target, but I fear it may be my going-away present. Time will tell.

On to the cards...

Here's a look at the base cards. I was pretty indifferent about the 2020 flagship design but I think it translates really well to chrome. Chrome does a good job of blurring the background and putting a singular focus on the player, and they look great in hand.

Dustin May definitely has some great hair. It kind of reminds me of Pennywise the clown... and that freaks me the hell out. His young career if off to a great start this year.

I pulled three refractors, one of which is a prism refractor. Happy to see two rookies here, which will be stashed away. Civale will have plenty of opportunity to prove himself as a solid starter - you have to think that the Clevinger trade shows some confidence in him to step up. 

A cool Bo Bichette rookie.

My guy! This is the only Pirate I pulled but I couldn't have asked for better. This card was on my wantlist, and I plan to target some of the parallels of this card for the PC. 

When I felt my finger fall into the gap of a die-cut, I was surprised. I didn't know that Chrome had any die-cuts in it this year. This is a pretty goofy and unneeded card in my opinion. 1950's wool jerseys don't exactly blend well with the modern "X" die cut design.

A nice pair of 1985 inserts. 

We finish up with the sepia refractors. You'll find a pack containing four of these cards in a blaster, making them retail-exclusive. I'm not crazy about sepia parallels. They're... fine, however I like the look of this year's sepia parallels over past years. In older releases, sepia cards were short printed, I believe to 75. 

There you have it! All around a very successful and fun break. Aside from ripping a few packs of Series 2 and a few packs of Bowman, it's been a slow year for ripping packs so this felt really good. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

He Was a Pirate? Part 7

The Pirates, like all MLB teams, experience a multitude of transactions throughout the year. And, you know, since it's the Pirates... no one really knows or cares about those moves. As a Pirates fan growing up in New York it was rare that I would come across anyone who shared my love for the black and gold. My Yankee-supporting counterparts were never aware of the frequent changes occurring a few hundred miles west in Pittsburgh. Oftentimes during friendly baseball-themed conversation, the question “He was a Pirate?” would arise. I’ve decided to honor this ever-occuring inquiry on my blog...

You definitely know the leg kick. But did you know he was a Pirate? Drafted in the third round of the 1995 out of high school, Bronson Arroyo is today’s subject.

Bronson’s career with the Pirates was very unspectacular. He was with them from 2000-2002 and he appeared in just over 50 games - about half of those being starts. He was shuttled back and forth between AAA and the majors to be used as a spot starter and a long reliever. His career ERA with the Pirates sits over 5.00, and frankly there’s not a whole lot in the history books regarding his time in Pittsburgh as he spent much of his time on the Disabled List.

Despite the tumultuous start to his career, his story is one of persistence as we went on to have a long and notable career. In 2003 the Red Sox signed him off waivers, and in 2004, he was an important part of the Sox rotation that went on to win the 2004 World Series.  Prior to the 2006 season, he was traded to the Reds in exchange for Willy Mo Pena. He went on to have the best year of his career at age 29. He led the majors in starts (35) and innings pitched (240 2/3) and was named to his first and only All-Star team. He continued on with the Reds for eight more seasons, making at least 32 starts a year and proving to be one of the most durable pitchers in majors.

In 2011, Arroyo placed himself in the record books for all the wrong reasons - He surrendered a whopping 46 home runs across his 199 innings pitched. Quick math tells me that’s roughly one home run every four innings… and that’s a lot. It’s just four shy of the MLB record (50) held by Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.

Despite his affinity for giving up the long ball, his career numbers are those of a very solid MLB pitcher: 419 appearances, 383 stars, win-loss of 148-137, and a career ERA of 4.28. I know a lot of modern-day MLB teams that would jump all over a guy with a guaranteed W/L of .500 and a sub-4.30 ERA.

As for the cardboard, I don’t have a ton to to show, but I do have a pair of his cards.

Bronson Arroyo - 2001 Upper Deck

Bronson Arroyo - 2002 Upper Deck

Sadly, neither one captures the signature leg kick. 

Thanks for stopping by for this edition of "He Was a Pirate?"

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Mailday Roundup: August Pickups

"Mailday." A term that we use daily in this hobby and probably take for granted. The US Postal service is crucial to exchanging cards. USPS isn't perfect, and we have all have our gripes - but 51 cents seems like a small price to pay to swap some cardboard across several hundred (or several thousand) miles. Here's to hoping that political greed won't interfere with our hobby.

Thankfully I haven't experienced any drastic changes in my USPS service yet. My latest big purchase arrived in a timely manner...

I'm excited to announce that I was able to add a second superfractor to my collection last week:

Bryan Reynolds - 2020 Topps Finest The Man Insert Superfractor #1/1

The love for "The Man" inserts in 2020 Topps Finest has been well documented, and with good reason. I was especially pleased to see that my favorite player, Bryan Reynolds, was lucky enough to be featured in the set. I keep my eyes peeled on eBay for most things Reynolds-related, using several saved searches and checking daily. This card went up on a .99 cent auction and I made sure to be there when the bidding closed. I won it for what I think is a reasonable price. Not cheap, but it could have been my only chance to own this card. It still cost me less than a hobby box of Topps Chrome, and I'd certainly rather have this than some mystery cards.

Due to the colorful artwork on this card, you're not seeing much of the superfactor-y chrome finish. It's only really evident in the space by his name and by the Topps Finest logo. The bigger standout to me is the color of the text at the top. The base cards fill in the text at the top with a pink/magenta color. This isn't my card, but here's what I mean:

Bryan Reynolds - 2020 Topps Finest The Man Insert 

Nothing wrong with the base cards, they're sweet too, but I'll take the white on the superfractor all day.  And of course, there's a 1/1 stamp on the back!

The seller threw in some extras which was really cool of him to do. Aside from the 2016 Bowman Draft, I didn't have any of these, so I netted 4 new Reynolds cards for my collection in this deal. 

Bryan Reynolds - 2017 Bowman Chrome - Prospects Gold #/50

Another eBay pickup for the gold collection. This was Reynold's last card in a Giants uniform before being traded. With these additions, I'm up to 31 unique Bryan Reynolds cards.

Thanks to a generous Free Stuff Friday from Kerry at Cards on Cards, I was able to grab these two inserts in a PWE. Speaking of, Kerry, I owe you another PWE - I'll get one out soon. 

I still root for and collect Tyler Glasnow, and due to some early success in Tampa, he's showing up on quite a few baseball cards. 

Lonzo Ball sure isn't playing like a #2 overall pick, and any spotlight that may still be on him will quickly shift to his younger brother. Lonzo's only 22 and I think he's got a pretty ideal situation in New Orleans. Only time will tell if he'll pan out, but thanks to Kerry I'm lucky to have a Lonzo rookie in my collection.

Robert from $30 a week habit and I pulled off our first TCDB trade last week, and it was a good one. I've been a huge champion of TCDB on here - and I'm telling you - if you're not on there, you should be. If it were not for the trade tool on the website, I don't think this trade would have happened. Although Robert didn't have too many Pirates that I needed, he had lots of great cards on his For Trade list, and I was able to build up a nice little stack of eight cards and we made it happen.

The highlights are above. Robert was kind enough to part with a rookie card of the hottest young rookie the game. Not to say I stiffed him - I sent him some pretty nice cards too. 

Believe it or not, I'm more pumped about the Eduardo Escobar rookie. Gold border and serial numbered #/2012. To me, Escobar is one of the most underrated players in the game. He 's not young (31) and he's not flashy, but he had 35 HR and 118 RBI last year. Those were all career highs by a long shot, so hopefully it wasn't a flukey year. 

Thanks for the cards, Robert!

All in all, it was another great week of visits to the mailbox. As much as some of us will declare otherwise, it's in our nature to enjoy gifts and surprises - and it's certianly in our nature to enjoy giving to others. Opening up the mailbox to find a PWE will always be a fun little feeling. I won't take it for granted.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Ripping Two 2020 Topps Chrome Hobby Packs

Today I swung by the LCS to pick up some toploaders and penny sleeves.  I rarely go to the LCS for much else these days because their hobby boxes are marked up 50% from online prices, and individual hobby pack prices are through the roof.

Despite that and against my better judgement, I grabbed two packs of 2020 Topps Chrome. 

Topps Chrome is my favorite baseball product of the year, and I have opened hobby box every year since 2013. I did get two hobby boxes this year, but I have yet to open them. I've started to hoard unopened products. It seems that they appreciate somewhat quickly over time, and I've made some extra cash by selling off some of my unopened products from past years. I think I'll hold these for a bit too. The only problem with this strategy is that it doesn't help me "scratch the itch" as we like to say.

So I spent $24 on two packs, which have four cards each. A nice bonus was a pack of cards from National Baseball card day.

Just for coming in to the store, one of the LCS employees handed me a clear cello pack with five cards in it. That pack contained all five cards above with the exception of the Yordan Alvarez. That card was handed to me after I made my purchased of $10 or more. I wasn't expecting any of it, so I'll gladly take the bonus.

Pack one:

Nothing really to see here. The photography on the Haniger card is great - I like the on-deck circle shot. I'm sure you could tell but Urena is a refractor. At least I got one Bucco.

Nothing too special with these three, but there was one more card in the pack...

Pretty sweet! Man, this really saved the day. Otherwise this was the equivalent of lighting 24 one dollar bills on fire. This is a prism refractor, which 1:6 hobby packs - twice as rare as standard refractors which fall 1:3. There's no better name to pull out of a pack right now. It's not a rookie, but the gold rookie cup is a great consolation prize. 

This card is fetching $15 on the secondary market, give or take. It's crazy to me that this guy is the hottest hitter in baseball and the most exciting young player at the moment - and if I chose to sell it, I would recoup just over half of what I spent. I don't buy cards to try and make immediate profit off of them - I'd have better luck scratching lotto tickets - but man, $24 is a steep price for 8 baseball cards. I have no regrets, but I wonder how much longer prices can continue to rise before things start to plateau and eventually decline. 

In a world of absurd sports card prices, I'm grateful for this really cool card, and I'm happy to stash it away as a great addition to my collection. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

He Was a Pirate? Part 6

*The Pirates, like all MLB teams, experience a multitude of transactions throughout the year. And, you know, since it's the Pirates... no one really knows or cares about those moves. As a Pirates fan growing up in New York it was rare that I would come across anyone who shared my love for the black and gold. My Yankee-supporting counterparts were never aware of the frequent changes occurring a few hundred miles west in Pittsburgh. Oftentimes during friendly baseball-themed conversation, the question “He was a Pirate?” would arise. I’ve decided to honor this ever-occuring inquiry on my blog...*

Today's edition of "He Was A Pirate?" features a Texas boy who made a name for himself in Beantown:

Brock holt was drafted by the Pirates in 2009 out of Rice and made his major league debut with the Pirates as a September call-up in 2012. He's made a living off of defensive versatility (he's played every position except pitcher and catcher) and his ability to get on base (career .340 OBP).

Holt's time with Buccos was short lived. He played in just 24 games and had 65 AB's but hit a very respectable .292. 

In December 2012, Holt was traded along with Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox in exchange for Mark Melancon and three other players who are now irrelevant. It turned out to be an an excellent move for the Pirates. Hanrahan would pitch in his last career game in May of 2013. Melancon went on to be a three time All-Star and a huge part of the Pirates bullpen. He's bounced around a bit since 2016 but he's currently closing out games for the Braves at age 35. 

So looking back eight years later, the trade works out to be a one-for-one swap that benefited both teams.

2013 Topps Update Rookie

Holt's career numbers are pretty unspectacular, but he's managed to find his way into the record books. He's a two-time World Series Champ and made his only All-Star team in 2015. He's also hit for the cycle twice in his career. One of those cycles was in the postseason - making him the only player EVER to hit for the cycle in the playoffs.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Auto

I never collected Holt after he left the Pirates so I have just two Brock Holt cards to show, but they're both pretty cool. Topps re-used the image from flagship in Gypsy Queen which will come as a tremendous surprise. Still, it's a great photo. For a guy that built a reputation on hustle and grit, it's fitting that he already has dirt on his jersey. 

Thanks for stopping by for this edition of "He Was a Pirate?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

First Contest Winner Announced!

Big thanks to everyone who entered the contest predicting the sixteen 2020 MLB Postseason teams. I probably couldn't have picked a worse time to center a contest around MLB games... hopefully MLB can get it together and we'll be able to complete the baseball season, and the contest, as planned. 

In total, 16 different contestants entered. Adding in new subscribers and blog pimps, there were a total of 28 entries. I popped those 28 entires into and randomized the list 21 times!

Without further ado...

And there we have it! Congratulations to John at John's Big League Baseball Blog for being randomly selected to win one jumbo pack of 2020 Topps Series 2! John, please get in touch so I can get your address!

Thanks again to all of those who entered. Remember, this is only phase one of the contest. Phase two will be announced in early October when the regular season concludes. Whoever wins that aspect of the contest will be taking home a fat pack of 2020 Bowman baseball!

If for some reason the baseball season gets shut down, I'll randomize the list 21 times again to raffle off the Bowman pack. 

Let's hope it doesn't come to that!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

LAST CALL For the Contest - Win Some 2020 Bowman and Series 2!

Happy Saturday everyone! Hope everyone is enjoying some nice weather and some baseball on TV.

Entries for the contest that I'm hosting will close tomorrow at 11:59 PM EST. So if you haven't entered yet, DO IT! There are some cool prizes on the line:

Thanks to those that have entered, and thanks for your patience while resubmitting your predictions after MLB switched up the format. 

To see the original contest post, click HERE. I posted the contest a few days before MLB made the announcement of the 16-team playoff - so I had to amend the rules. To read the revised rules and submit your picks - USE THIS LINK. 

If you're curious, here's what we have for entries:

Thanks all! Good luck!