Friday, April 29, 2016

Another Trade Package with more Molina

I commented last week how most of my recent trade packages contained at least 1 Yadier Molina card.  He is one of the more popular Cardinals that does have a card and/or insert in most sets, but there are quiet a few more hardcore Molina collectors out there than me.  My streak continued early this week when I got a trade package from Ron of the Trading Bases group.  I mailed him some of the Pirate cards I got signed at Indianapolis a few weeks ago. 

This package contained 2 Molina cards from 2016 Donruss and 1 from Diamond Kings. I like the painted look of this year's Diamond Kings cards.  Panini seems to have used all catching poses to get past airbrushing the logos. 

This Piscotty Rated Rookie finished my Donruss set.  The lack of logo on the helmet really sticks out on this card. 

These are my first 2016 Opening Day cards. I love the looks of the blue parallels, will have to track some down.

I found it kind of funny that I got 2 different Lankfords  in the package.  I had the Ray Lankford, but this is my first Cole Lankford.  Cole is an outfielder in rookie ball right now who may see single A before the end of the year.  Hard to tell from the scan, but the die cut is numbered to 200.

Jaime Garcia is healthy for the second year in a row, which is big news.  He has had a Jekyll and Hyde type of year so far.  He threw a 1 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts, but has also gotten bombed twice.  At least he is healthy so far.  I am not for sure who the Cardinals would have for a 5th starter if someone got hurt right now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Coupon Got Me

Back in the fall of 2002 my wife and I made the decision that our double wide trailer was not a big enough place to start a family in, so we decided to build a house.  We moved the double wide in June of 2003 because we wanted to attach the existing garage to our new house.  Construction started on July 5 with the digging of our basement.  After four long months of living in a camper, we moved into the new house a week before Thanksgiving.

So what does this have to do with baseball cards you may ask.  Long story short, the monthly mortgage took a good bite out of the card budget.  Before the house, I would buy a hobby box every month or two.  I cannot even tell you the last time I busted a hobby box since then.  I will get the occasional blaster box from Wal-Mart, but busting packs is almost as rare as a Adam Wainwright quality start this year. 

Monday night I had the chance to sort some cards sitting on my desk and came across the coupon that was included with the Topps Marketside cards.   I had to go to the store for dog food anyway, so I took the coupon along hoping to find some 2016 Bowman.  No such luck though, so I decided to use the $1 off value pack coupon for some 2016 Gypsy Queen.

The base cards feature the typical border Gypsy Queen has used the past few years.  I like the simple design and the way the red text stands out.  I did not get any sps or Cardinals from the base cards, so all of these are for trade:  16-22-33-47-51-96-127-136-141-145-152-223-233-270

 I like the look of the blue frame parallel cards compared to the white border from last year.  Once again all of these are up for trade.
7 Corey Seager
12 Jose Bautista
69 Edwin Encarnacion
86 Adrian Beltre
98 Carlos Rondon

Each pack contained a mini card, although each was different.  The Robbie Ray was the only regular mini.  Yep, all of these are for trade also.
282 Robbie Ray
MVP Cal Ripken Jr
Purple 200 Brian McCann 206/250

The only insert in the 3 packs was also my only Cardinal.  This is the same photo Topps has used for other Musial cards, but at least they included more of the background.  I do believe Power Alley is a new insert for Gypsy Queen. 

This was the first pack of cards I opened in 2016, not counting the Marketside cards.  I do miss the thrill of busting a pack, but not the letdown of not getting what I paid for.  All of these are nice cards, but not really worth the $3 per pack price.  I am a sucker though, so will most likely use the $2.50 blaster box coupon when Bowman does arrive.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

1 Sticker + 2 Carlos + Assorted Hits = Great Trade Package

My trading has slowed down a bit with the nicer weather finally arriving here in Southern Illinois.  It seems every night I have one or two functions to run the kids to.  Ball practice, dance practice, choir, etc keeps me away from home until 8 or 9 in the evening.  By the time showers, dinner, and homework is done, there is little time or motivation to devote to baseball cards.  It is nice though to open the mailbox and find a trade package or two still coming in.

I have traded with Michael from the Trading Bases group multiple times, but it has been a long time.  He was one of the traders who had some Pirates for the Indianapolis game I attended.  He also slipped in some Cardinals.

Michael included a nice variety of cards and even a sticker.  I have a couple other 2013 Topps Stickers to go along with the Lance Lynn, but need quite a few more.  The 2015 Heritage Minors card features Tim Cooney, a promising lefty who is experiencing shoulder problems to start the season.  Not sure why Shelby Miller has a 2013 Bowman Draft card when he was in the regular Bowman set that same year.

Two Carlos from the 2013 Bowman Chrome set.  I hope Martinez builds on his season from last year and continues to build up to a 20 game winner.  Beltran had a nice couple of season in St. Louis as the veteran replacement for Albert Pujols. 

Nothing too flashy about these 2 2016 Donruss cards.  Not for sure why, but it seems like all of my recent packages has at least one Molina card that I need. 

I am a fan of the refractor like finish of Pannini Prizm regardless of what year.  Panini did a decent job of selecting photos that minimize the lack of logos on these 2 cards.  It is sad to see how far Allen Craig has fallen.  Last I check he is still with Boston's Triple A team.

Monday, April 18, 2016

All Cardinals goes All Pirates

The Cardinals have a big series starting tonight against the Cubs.  Good thing they have been playing better of late, going 7-2 since starting the season by getting swept by the Pirates.  I cannot say that the Pittsburgh sweep was a surprise.  Having seen the Cardinals in spring training the week before, it did not look like they were prepared to start the season.  A lot of the starters either did not play, or looked like they were just going through the motions.  Pittsburgh served as a good wake up call.

I have never been to Pittsburgh to see a game, but I would love to go.  I hear the ballpark is beautiful.  I did see their Triple A team the Indianapolis Indians play 2 years ago.  They play at Victory Field in downtown Indy.  Like its Major League counterpart, Victory Field is very nice.  The concourse has many pictures of past players including Andrew McCutchen, Randy Johnson, and Larry Walker.

The family and I made another trip to Indy on Saturday to watch the Baby Buccos take on the Columbus Clippers, Cleveland's Triple A team.  Each Saturday is Signature Saturday with various people signing free autographs.  This past Saturday was team autograph night.  Tables were set up along the concourse with 2 players or coaches at each table signing for 45 minutes.  This is a great setup for fans, as the tables are labeled  with each signer.  Each person is allowed to get 1 auto, but you can get back in a line if you choose to.  It was not hard to get through each table , although some had longer lines than others.  I had a few cards from a Sportlots order to get signed along with some from 2 Pirate fans from the Trading Bases group.

Butch Wynegar is the hitting coach for the Indians.  He did not have a long line and was very talkative.

Willy Garcia has a cannon for an arm with some power potential.  His auto leaves a little to be desired, although he was nice.

Ngoepe is a very talented shortstop.  He made a great sliding stop to his backhand and through out the runner by a step.  He is a native of South Africa.

Rojas is the son of the former MLB pitcher.  He was very talkative and shook hands with almost everyone.
 Alen Hanson has a good mix of power and speed for a shortstop.  Out of all the players, he seemed the most disinterested in signing.  He made little eye contact and did not say a word.

Jameson Taillon is the Pirates 4th rated prospect.  He missed the last 2 seasons due to injuries.  He joked with us about not signing because we were wearing Cardinals hats, but was very friendly.

Josh Bell is the Pirates 3rd rated prospect.  Most fans think he will be in Pittsburgh before the All Star break.  He is a big man with big power.  He was at the same table as Taillon.  This was by far the most popular table.

There were numerous players who we did not have cards for, so they signed this logo sheet.  Good thing most of them added their numbers otherwise I would have not clue who signed this.  From top to bottom, left to right: Jorge Rondon, Kelvin Marte, Alen Hanson, Max Moroff, Ed Easley, John Kuchno, Mel Rojas Jr, Jason Rogers, Guido Knudson, Wilfredo Boscan, Trey Haley, and Curtis Partch.  I was shocked Hanson signed this.  While Marte was signing it, Hanson leaned over and scribbled his name.

I could not go the entire night without getting something Cardinal related signed.  Rondon was a member of the Springfield Cardinals that won the 2012 Texas League championship.  This is the 12th card I have signed from the team set.

Ed Easley was by far the most friendly player.  This program is from a 2014 Memphis Redbirds game.  Easley is a native of Memphis and spent a few minutes talking about how great it was to play in his home town.  He did not have much of a line, so he was more than happy to talk about the minor leagues.  He did get 6 at bats with St. Louis last year, but went hitless.  He should be able to hang around Triple A for a few more years as the veteran catcher.

We got a total of 35 autographs for our 45 minutes of work.  Our seats were in the front row by the Clippers bullpen.  My daughter got a ball from a relief pitcher after he finished warming up.  My son caught a foam ball that was thrown out in between innings that included a $5 Subway card.  Nice little prize for him.

The game was not overly exciting.  The  Clippers won 2-1 with a home run in the top of the ninth.  Pirates #1 prospect Tyler Glasnow started the game and struck out 9 in five innings.  He looks to be a stud with a short stay in Indy this year before he gets called up.

One last thing that made me a proud dad:
My 11 year old daughter kept a scorecard for both teams the entire game.  Other than not using a backwards K, she was spot on with almost everything without asking for help. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PWE x 3

Yesterday's mail brought a trio of trade packages, all the plain white envelope variety.  I know others do not like using this method, but if it is a low dollar trade with only a handful of cards I am all for it.  Any way you can find to stretch your hobby dollar is usually a good idea.

I swapped a couple of 2016 Topps Gold cards from my dime box find for these 2 2015 Topps Update Gold cards.  If you blinked you would have missed Cishek in a Cardinals uniform.

I traded 2 more of the 2016 Gold cards for this 3 pack of team set hits.  The 1986 Sportsflic card is Ozzie Smith.  It would have been nice for Topps to make 1 Heritage card with both Cardinals prospects on it, but that would be to logical for them.

My favorite package contained these 2 Molina cards.  The one on the left is a2015 Panini Elite All Star Salutes card.  It looks much better in person.  The 2015 Prizm card is a Camo parallel numbered to 199.  Panini did a great job with the various parallels from this set.  They even chose a photo that did not require airbrushing the logos off.  I love when the card shows cathers in their tools of the trade.

Monday, April 11, 2016

NCAA win = Sportlots Goodies

My NCAA tournament bracket stunk this year.  I only picked 1 correct final four team, and that one lost in the championship game.  I did enter a Sweet 16 pool where you pay $5 for a random team with winner taking all.  I was luckily enough to get Villanova, so once my entry fees for brackets and the pool were subtracted I netted $70.  Of course I had to spend a small portion on cards, so I hit up Sportlots to fill in some team holes and also get a few cards for autographing at a future minor league game.  I placed a 25 card order with 1 seller for a total of $7.07.
Not sure what Red is doing with all the gloves in this picture, but he seems happy to be doing it.  This was the last card needed to complete the 2013 Panini Cooperstown set.
2012 Elite Extra Edition featured quite a few Cardinal draft choices.  Maness is the only one from this group to see St. Louis, although Wilson may have a chance in September or if another infielder gets hurt.  Rowan Wick had a ton of power as an outfielder, but could not make contact.  He is now a pitcher for the Cardinals Palm Beach Class A team.
I have written about Patrick Wisdom and Carson Kelly before in this blog.  Kelly just hit his first homer in Double A last night. 

I bought these 3 2015 Bowman Chrome cards with the intent to have them autographed at a Peoria Chiefs game, but discovered I needed them for team sets.  Autos will have to wait.

Rounding out the Cardinals portion of the order were these 2013 Prizm cards.  Not sure why I did not order the Ryan Jackson card to finish the set.  Maybe next time.

I received another 8 cards in the order, but will save them with the hopes of showing them off when they get autographed. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Solace in Losing

The Cardinals have not started the season well, going 0-3 for the first time since 2007.  The Pirates will be a good team this year, most likely a good chance of making the playoffs, but I have a hard time believing Juan Nicasio is that good of a pitcher.  He may prove me wrong.  The number of strikeouts through 3 games is very alarming, as is the sloppy play in the field.  I guess there is no where to go but up, at least I hope it can't get any worse.  At this rate the Cardinals could get no hit this weekend in Atlanta.

While watching the game last night, I did find comfort sorting a trade package that arrived while I was on vacation.  I have traded with Trading Bases member Stu numerous times.  He always does the leg work for these trades, find cards from my team want lists while also going through my tradelist for things he can use.  His latest package knocked off 50 cards from my wantlist, some as old as 1970. 

These 6 1970 Topps cards are in excellent condition.  Some may be a little off center, but there are not creases and most off the corners are very sharp.  Torre would spend parts of 6 seasons with the Cardinals, winning the MVP award in 1971.  He would also managing the Cardinals from 1990-1995.  He was a great player and manger, but never made the playoffs with the Cardinals. 

2 more Torre cards, these from 1972.  Both have some flaws, but still are in decent shape.  I am not very picky when it comes to the condition of early 1970s cards.  As long as all the card is there and there is no major creases, I am happy.

Topps put out some funny stickers in 1983, like the top right card featuring Darrell Porter's midsection.  I believe you had to put together 2 or 3 stickers to get the full action pose.

I always had a fondness for the Cardinals outfielders of the early 1990s. Sure my favorite player Ray Lankford was a mainstay, but players like Jordan and Gilkey were good all around players.  These 3 cards completed my 1995 Emotion set.
These 1999 Skybox Molten Metal cards did not scan well.  They have a Finest refractor like finish to them. 
I have quite a few holes in my Heritage teams sets, ranging from obscure pitchers like Stephenson to the various SPs.  Amazing how thin and young Molina looks on this 2004 Heritage card. 
I think the sting of Pujols leaving St. Louis is all but gone.  The Cardinals used the 2 draft picks they received for losing him to pick Michael Wacha and Stephen Piscotty.  Although Pujols has been injured for much of his time in Anaheim, I doubt he would have put up the same .300, 30 home runs, and 100 rbi seasons he had for the Cardinals.  It will still be interesting to see what type of reception Pujols gets if the Angels ever come to St. Louis.  The 2007 Topps is the red letter variation that finished a team set. 

I received a few other cards from Stu, but some were not scan worthy such as a few checklists.  I am one of those people who adds the checklists to team sets.  Guess I am weird that way. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pizza Party

By now most people have seen or at least heard about the Topps cards inside Wal-Mart's Marketside pizza products.  I have tasted the pizza before and was not crazy about it, but the cheese sticks were not too awful.  While picking up soda for a NCAA championship game party on Monday, I picked up a box.  The 3 card pack was not the greatest.

All 3 are solid players, but lack star appeal.  I was fortunate to already find someone to trade them to for some Cardinals hits.  On a side note, the kids enjoyed the cheese sticks and I was only in Wal Mart for about 10 minutes.  The game turned out great for me also as I won $70 in an office pool.  I will forever be in debt to Kris Jenkins.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Training Day 3

The first 2 days of my spring training trip had some ups and downs as far as getting autographs, but overall I could not complain.  The weather was ideal, and the kids were content splitting time in between baseball and the beach.  I was still hoping for a big name auto of a current player during my last day on Thursday.  Having attended Winter Warm Up, I know these can get pricey if you have to pay for them.  Thursday morning would bring some luck.

My son wanted to go to the player's parking lot again, so we arrived about 6:30 again.  The crowd this time was less than 10 people.  I believe it was 4 or 5 kids and a older couple from Springfield, MO that served as a host family for a Double A player in 2015.  The Cardinals were scheduled to play an away game against the Nationals in Viera at 1:00 that day, so it was even more of an unknown of who would show up and at what time.  We saw some of the same 4x4 trucks with tinted windows from the previous morning, but no one stopped the first 30 minutes.  We did have some luck with the minor league guys that were walking to the clubhouse.
My daughter had this picture taken with Jack Flaherty last year in Peoria.  Flaherty was the #34 pick in the 2014 draft.  He is the Cardinals #2 prospect behind Alex Reyes.  He should start the season in the high A rotation with a good chance to see Double A before the end of 2016.  I was thrilled to get this signed, then Jack went ahead and signed 2 cards.

Shortly after Flaherty stopped, one of the trucks stopped at the gate.  I gave my son a new ROMLB hoping it might be someone good.  Turns out it was Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.  He signed under the Rawlings logo.  I did have a card for him, but was so surprised that he stopped that I forgot to get it out.  Not even 5 minutes later another truck stops.  Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright rolls down the window.  My son got him to sign the same ball Rosenthal did.
Rosenthal on top, Wainwright below

I was a little better prepared for Wainwright than I was for Rosenthal.  I was the last person he signed for.
Waino made our morning, so we decided to go back to the hotel to check out and pick up the rest of the family.  On our way back, I drove past the Marlins side of the complex and noticed someone jogging by himself along the outfield track on one of the practice fields.  I was shocked to see it was Barry Bonds.  I thought about pulling over and trying to get an auto since there was no one else around, but decided not too.  I have heard too many stories about Bonds being a jerk that I did not want to subject my son to that.  I doubt he knows who Bonds is anyway.

We had tickets to the game in Viera, but had some time after checkout.  We stopped at the practice fields one last time.  I was hoping to get McGee on a ball, but did not find him.  My son kept our good morning going by getting Alex Reyes to sign a photo.
 This was taken last year on Reyes' first day at Double A Springfield.  We watched a couple innings of a game before it started to rain, so we decided to head for Viera.  Wish I had another baseball left because Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was watching one of the games in a golf cart.  I settled for a handshake and good luck on the season. 

We arrived in Viera about 45 minutes before game time.  The game was a sell out, so I was not expecting to get anymore autos.  We had third row seats down the third base line about half way to the outfield wall.  The only possible chance we had for autos were the Cardinals relief pitchers on their way to the bullpen.  Luck was on our side again.

Sam Tuivailala signed for maybe 5 people on his way out to the pen.  My son had him sign the same ball started at the game on Wednesday.  The Cardinals went on to lose the game 7-2.  Wainwright did not look that great, giving up 3 runs in less than 5 innings. 

Out totals for the 3 days:
7 autographed cards
2 autographed photos
3 broken bats, one autoed
2 autographed baseballs: 4 sigs on one, 2 on another
1 spring training baseball, 3 minor league balls

It was a fun trip, one I hope to do again some time in the near future. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Training Day 2

After a fun first day on Monday, I had plans to go back to the minor league games on Tuesday since the Cardinals had an off day.  Good thing I checked my email before I left because the minor leaguers were also given the day off.  Instead we spent the morning at the Palm Beach Outlets Mall, then hit up another beach that afternoon.  The mall did have a nice Rawlings store with a great selection of MLB baseballs, but I had plenty of those packed for the trip.  I did buy a nice full size replica Cardinals helmet for $45 which will be used for future autographs.

While at the backfields on Monday, another fan told me a good place to try to get autos was the entrance to the player's parking lot.  My son made it to the entrance at 6:30 Wednesday morning.  There was another 10 or 12 people there already.  It felt strange standing there in the dark waiting for a chance that one of the many large 4x4 trucks with tinted windows may stop.  It was nice to pass the time talking to the few other fans that were there.  After about 45 minutes one of the trucks stopped.
Brandon Moss signed 4 or 5 autos for the kids who wanted one.  A couple of teenagers backed away once they saw it was him.  I guess they were hoping for someone else.

While we were waiting at the entrance, a lot of the minor league players were coming to the complex.  Some walked from the apartments across the street or down a block or so, while others arrived by bus. Some would stop and say hi on their way to the clubhouse.  My son recognized Cardinals #1 prospect Alex Reyes. 
My son has gotten Reyes' auto at the Peoria and Springfield ballparks.  He thinks it is cool he shares his first name with a ballplayer.  I hope Reyes matures from his past marijuana mistakes to fulfill his potential as a #1 or 2 starter. 

We left around 7:30 to go back to the hotel to pick up the rest of the family.  We returned around 9:00 when the gates to the practice fields opened.  One of the gate keepers mentioned that the starting pitchers would be at field 3 at 9:30 to throw batting practice.  We had tickets for batting practice at 10;00, so I thought we had plenty of time to watch for a while and maybe get more autos.  At 9:50 no one had showed up yet, so we left.  Found out later they had practiced before the gates were open.  I heard this was the case many times this spring that the players did not follow the schedule the gate keepers had.

I had tickets for the Cardinals 1:00 game against the Marlins that afternoon.  I had also bought a special batting practice ticket that allowed us on the field to watch the Cardinals take practice at 10:00.  This was limited to 50 people so it seemed like another good chance for autos.  The group meet at the front gate and was escorted down the first base line to a spot about 50 feet behind the batting cage.  There were 2 other groups on the field already.  One group of about 20 was along the third base dugout, another group of 20 along the first base dugout.  False advertising in my book. 

A few minutes into practice, one of the coaches gave my son a ball.

Hard to tell from the scan, but it is a spring training ball with the Florida stamp on it.  A handful of other fans got a ball as the hour long practice went, but that was it.  Not one player signed a single auto for anyone.  It did not help that a middle aged man kept yelling at the players while they were swinging to sign for him.  I did get some cool pictures though.
Matt Holliday with his Grizzly Adams beard
The newer slimmed down version of Matt Adams

We had an hour and a half to kill before the start of the game, so we grabbed a quick bite of overpriced chicken and fries and headed to our seats.  2 of us sat a couple of rows off the field behind the Cardinals' bullpen pitching mound, while the other 2 were one section over in the second row.  My daughter and I could barely squeeze into our seats because of all the autograph seekers by the bullpen.  The Cardinals have to walk down the right field line to get to the dugout, so this was prime autograph territory.  I don't mind kids who do not have a ticket in our section taking up space, but adults are a different story.  I had the misfortune of sitting next to a 300 plus pound man who took up half my seat.  After 15 minutes of him not moving and his body odor, we decided to walk around the stadium until closer to game time.

My wife and son also had a crowd in their section, but an older couple in the front row was very vocal about people being in their seats.  They did allow my son to stand next to them because he was being polite.  He snagged 3 autos on a ROMLB baseball.

Sorry for the blurry and sideways pic.  Mike Matheny has a reputation for being a good signers.  He inscribed the ball with a bible verse on the sweet spot.

Michael Ohlman should be the starting catcher at Triple A Memphis this year.  If Carson Kelly does not leapfrog him, he has a chance to see some time in the big leagues the next year or two if Yadier Molina or Brayan Pena get hurt.  He is very big for a catcher, weighing 240 pounds at 6'5" tall.

The top signature is Dean Kiekhefer, the bottom I will save for another post.  Kiekhefer is a left handed reliever who has a shot of making his MLB debut this year.  His delivery is a mix between side arm and submariner.  We have talked to him at minor league games last season and he is your typical quirky left hander.

Day 2 was not as fun or productive as day 1, but we still had a good time.  Anything beats a cold spring day back in Illinois.