Friday, July 31, 2015

The First Domino Falls

The Tradewinds are a-swirlin' right now and there are rumors of a potential blockbuster, three-way deal with the BoSox and the Pads (makes sense when you consider who runs the Cubs FO).  Regardless of what happens there, the Cubs will have made at least one trade at the end of the day:

Dan Haren is now the Cubs' new fifth starter, courtesy of two minor-leaguers, by way of Miami.  Danny has an excellent 3.42 ERA right now, but his peripheral stats suggest regression is likely.  That said, as a BOR option, Haren is infinitely better than Dallas Beeler and the eternally injured Tsuyoshi Wada due to his eating of innings and contract paid by the Dodgers.

Wouldn't you know it though - I actually sealed this Ginter insert up in a trade package yesterday and I sent it on it's way before I realized that he would become a Cub.  Oopsy.  I'm sure I have another card for my CATRC - he's been around for a while.

Meanwhile, those minor-leaguers the Cubs gave up:

Elliot Soto is a guy I actually have a card of, which I picked up on the cheap just in case he ever reached the Majors.  He's far from a blue-chip prospect - he's been in the system since 2010 and currently resides in AA.  Plus, he was Rule V draft eligible.

... and the Cubs have a few talented middle infielders that you might have heard of too.

Image courtesy of

The second name was the bigger name, yet I didn't have a card of him.  Irony.

Anyway, he came over to the Cubs in the Scott Hairston deal of 2013.  He has pitched with up and down results and has had some injury issues in AA; but, he still projects as a possible BOR starter or bullpen piece.  There's definitely potential value here, but it's pretty minimal.

Again, he's also Rule V eligible.

Therefore, the Cubs took two player with a small (at best) chance of contributing to the Big League squad in the future who were also eligible to be snapped up for nothing at the end of the year and turned them into a quality fifth starter.  I'd say it was worth it.

Meanwhile, this isn't the first time the Cubs have attempted to trade for Haren either.  Back in the winter of 2012, the Cubs had allegedly agreed to trade the talented but wild reliever Carlos Marmol to the Angels for Haren, straight up.  However, it's said that Dan's medicals spooked the Cubs and that caused them to nix the deal.

Oh Carlos - from All-Star to all-gone :(

In retrospect, it would have been a pretty good trade for the Cubs, seeing as how the wheels completely fell off of the Marmol train and Haren hasn't made fewer than 30 starts since then.  Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

Even so, that is still not my lasting memory of Dan Haren.  In fact, my lasting memory of the guy really only involves him tangentially.

In 2010, I was in St. Louis for a sports-writing conference and the association was kind enough to include tickets to a Cardinals game for some post workshop entertainment.  Now, I may be a Cubs fan, but I will never turn down free baseball tickets.  That would be un-American.

So, I went with a large group and thoroughly enjoyed myself - new Busch Stadium is a beautiful place to take in a ballgame and it really invokes the atmosphere of new-retro parks like Camden.  What does any of this have to due with Haren though?

The Cards were taking on the Diamondbacks and Dan Haren made the start.  He was pretty mediocre (6IP, 4ER) and the Cardinals staged a late game rally to win it in the end.  But, in what has become one of my favorite things that I've witnessed personally in sports, Randy Winn (who had just been acquired days earlier) channeled his inner Jose Canseco.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

It's hard to tell from that image and I couldn't figure out how to embed the play from (check it out here), but the ball bounced right off of Randy's glove and over the wall.  Ouch.

I don't think he'll ever forget that one.  Nor will I.

Anyway, Dan Haren is now a Cub.  I'm going to wrap this up and go back to obsessively monitoring MLB Trade Rumors and Twitter like a crazy person.  This has easily been the most exciting trade deadline in years!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Rise of the Submariner

I collected comic books back in the early part of my teen years.  Much like how I collect baseball cards (one card of each Cubs player), rather than read or dedicate myself to a series or character, I gathered at least one comic book of each super hero.  I guess this is how I operate.

Also, like my infatuation with the roster-filler/bubble guys on the Cubs roster (who else remembers Rey Ordonez's Cubs tenure?), my favorite super heroes were the more obscure types - Union Jack, Green Arrow, Blue Beetle, etc.

I swear that I'm not a hipster.

One such (relatively) obscure hero/anti-hero was the Submariner.  I say relative because I'm sure he's well-known and loved in comic book circles; however, he ain't Spiderman.

Image courtesy of

At the risk of over-simplifying things, if you aren't familiar with the guy, he's basically the Marvel equivalent of Aquaman:  hails from Atlantis, master of the seas, etc.  He alternates between bad and good due to a lasting beef with the human race and, at various points, is even part of the Avengers.  I wonder if he'll ever pop up in the movie franchise?

There is much, much, much more nuance to the character, however, that's really all you need to know for the purpose of this blog post.

So, where am I going with this?  What this any of this have to do with the Cubs or baseball cards?

Well, yesterday the Cubs called up their own Submariner - reliever Ben Rowen now rises to the Bigs:

Ben pitching for the Pelicans - then a Rangers affiliate, now a Cubs affiliate
Image courtesy of Jake Rose on Flickr

While this version is unable to breathe under water, I'd settle for the ability to get opposing batters out.

Originally from the Rangers organization, the side-armer has had an eventful year.  After being released by Texas last December, he signed on with the Dodgers only to be traded to Baltimore in the much-ballyhooed Ryan Webb deal from the beginning of the season.  He was then released by the Orioles on the fourth of July.

That's no way to celebrate America's birthday.

He now gets a chance to stick in one place for a while courtesy of Neil Ramirez suffering some abdominal pain - make it count Ben!

Anyway, pending his first appearance, I'll need to be adding this new bullpen piece to my CATRC.  Seeing as his time in the Majors thus far has been limited to an 8 game cuppacoffee last season and he isn't a heralded prospect, he doesn't have much in the way of cardboard:

He had two cards in Bowman products in 2013; on the left in the standard Bowman base and on the right is the Bowman Retail Prospects autograph special or whatever it's actually called.

Then, of course, there is the Bowman Chrome version of the base card and the bevy of parallels for each card as well; but these are the basics.

Rowen also had a card in last year's edition of Onyx Authenticated, one of  the "off-brand" unlicensed sets.  They remind me of the 2008 Playoff Contenders set for some reason.

While, I generally prefer cards with MLB logos and I also have an irrational distaste of horizontal cards, this example perfectly encapsulates his oddball delivery and the blurry baseball on the bottom right corner is a masterful touch.

Oddball Submariner delivery on an oddball card - there's something symbolic in that.

No, not that symbol!  It's not even for the right superhero; not even the right universe!
Image courtesy of Video Games Fanon

Anyway, if anybody has a lead on any of these cards or their parallels, I'd be more than happy to compensate.  Lord knows I won't be able to find any singles of such an obscure guy from such rarely busted sets in my LCS.  Actual quote from one of my proprietors upon a similar inquiry, "You always are looking for such weird stuff..."

I guess I gotta keep him on his toes?

Meanwhile, here's hoping that Rowen can help solidify a bullpen that has been a bit iffy since the All-Star break ended.  That is, if he isn't immediately bumped by a big trade deadline acquisition or something like that.

Joe Maddon, who had Chad Bradford at his disposal with the Rays, is a big fan of the Submariner and the different look he'll bring to opposing batters.  “I love funk,” Maddon said. “I’ve always been a funk guy. The funk is good. Whenever you get funk in the bullpen, I like that.’’

We got the funk, gotta have that funk.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Damn You, D.J.!

I finally made it to a Cubs game this year.  

Scratch that - I finally made it to a baseball game. This is probably the latest I've ever gone into the season without having gone to a White Sox, Windy City Thunderbolts, Joliet Slammers, University of St. Francis Fighting Saints or even a Little League game.  The time just has not been there for me in 2015.

But, my friend called me up last night an hour and a half before first pitch and offered up a free ticket; opportunity was a-knockin'.  I will almost never say no to a free ticket to just about anything - especially if it's to a Cubs game.

Oh and what a stinker it was.  The Cubs were creamed 7-2 and it really never felt like they were in the game to begin with.  This was largely due to the fact that D.J. LeMahieu has taken it upon himself to punish the franchise for trading him for the lowly Ian Stewart.

All he did was go 3-4 with a double, a triple, a walk and a HBP... overall, this series, the All-Star has gone 6-8 with 3 XBH and 3 RBI.  The guy is a one man wrecking crew right now.

Oh well, at least it gives me an excuse to show off this serial numbered Topps 100 refractor of D.J. from 2009 Bowman Chrome.  Who doesn't love a nice, shiny card?

Meanwhile, as for the rest of the game.  We got there a little late because of late notice and a lack of quality parking options near the stadium (no one wants to listen to me) and got there in the second inning.  Couldn't have missed much, right?

Wrong!  It was already 4-1 Rockies and Cubs' starter Dallas Beeler was removed from the game before I even made it off of the concourse.  That did not bode well for this offensively challenged squad.

It also does not bode well for Dallas Beeler, who I'd say his days as a Cub are numbered.  This is his second straight clunker and even if the Cubs don't bring in a Matt Latos or a Mike Leake at the deadline will probably get bumped by Tsuyoshi Wada.

I wouldn't be surprised if he gets DFA'ed in the off-season either -  he has not show that he's worthy of a 40-man roster spot this year and there are more interesting prsopects who will need Rule 5 protection.

Sadly, while I was spared Dallas' performance, I also missed these two put together a run in the bottom of the first, briefly making it seem like the Cubs wouldn't roll over and die.

Kyle Schwarber continued to look like a a seasoned veteran at the plate and drew a walk.  After Kris Bryant drew another walk, Jorge drove a single into right field to plate  Schwarbs and it looked like the Cubs had Rockies' starter Yohan Flande on the ropes.

But, of course, that would be the last of the scoring for a while.

Travis Wood was taking his warm up tosses on the mound when I finally made it to my seat.  Coincidentally, Travis actually started the last Cubs game I went to - Father's Day 2014 in Philadelphia when I was on vacation. All he did then was go 8 shutout innings, carrying a no-hitter late into the contest.

This time, Travis pitched rather well again - considering this was an emergency move.  He went 3.2 innings and gave up one run; it felt like he was in control the whole time and the only mistake he made was leaving one up for D.J. LeMahieu to drive into left-center for a triple.

D.J. later scored on a ground out to Rizzo at first base.

Perhaps Travis should be re-considered for the fifth spot in the rotation if the Cubs don't bring in another arm at the deadline?  He may have looked awful in that role early in the season; but, he sure has looked good coming out of the bullpen lately.

While Travis pitched well, so to did Flande.  Well, rather, he wasn't giving up any runs; but, the Cubs sure had their chances, stranding 7 runners throughout the game.  With the steamy temps and his high pitch count, Flande was pulled after the fifth and replaced with former Cub Gonzalez Germen.

With as poorly as the man with a backwards name pitched for the Cubs earlier this season, I actually felt kinda good about their chances to come back.

For a minute, it looked like the Cubs might just seize that chance.

Chris Coghlan drove a solo home run to right and the Cubbies put two men on with one out in the sixth.  But a fielder's choice by Schwarber and an acrobatic, run-saving snare of a line drive by Daniel Descalso (who got the start at short in place of the just-dealt Troy Tulowitzki) off the bat of Kris Bryant ended the threatwith the Cubs still trailing 5-2.

This was the last dollop of hope to be experienced.

Rafael Soriano came into the game at this point and proceeded to implode.

Soriano gave up 3 hits and 2 runs in his only inning of work and his velocity continued to not impress.  This was his third straight appearance allowing a run and one has to wonder if this experiment might just end sooner than expected.  

Raffy looks like the Raffy of the second half of 2014 - in other words, done.

From here, the most interesting thing to happen the rest of the game involved this guy:

No - don't worry, he's not back with the Cubs or anything.  Actually, I noticed a guy walk past me sporting an authentic #8 Mike Quade jersey on the concourse.  I wish I had my camera ready to go because I know that must be hard for you all to believe.

If I didn't know any better, I would have assumed that that was, in fact, Mike Quade himself - after all, who in their right mind would have ever thought that was a good purchase?  That said, Quade is managing in the Twins chain this year; plus, this guy had hair too.

The Cubs did absolutely nothing for the rest of the game and this one went into the books as a 7-2 loss. Hopefully, I can make it back to Wrigley again this year and not have that be my lasting, first-hand impression of the 2015 squad,  

Well, despite that lackluster performance, the Cubs still have a chance to win the series today.  Jon Lester will oppose Eddie Butler; so, I like their chances, based on that pitching match-up.

That is, if they could just get that damn D.J. LeMahieu to roll-over on a pitch or two.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bearing Down on Garage Sales

Some people go crazy over Christmas and start immediately shoving it down our throats before Thanksgiving is even upon us.  Some people are bonkers for Halloween and start planning out their costumes while it's still 90+ degrees outside.  Still others obsess over St. Patrick's Day and drink themselves under a rock every weekend...

...wait a minute, that's probably just alcoholism - anyway...

My holiday of choice is none of the above.  In fact, my Christmas is not even a real, nationally recognized day of celebration.  The day I look forward to every year is Garage Sale Day - the day upon which the entire community can set up a yard sale without the normal cost of a permit.

Ever since I was a tiny kid and searching for deals on old Beanie Babies, this has been a day that I've circled on my calendar.  It's an endless sea of opportunity to find wild, obscure and off-beat knick knacks that one can't simply pull off a shelf at Wal-Mart.  Also, there's usually good deals to be had on stuff I collect, i.e. baseball cards.

I think I have a problem though, not only do I eagerly anticipate the arrival of my community's Garage Sale Day; but, I also notate and often attend the surrounding towns' version of this event.  Hi - my name is Tony and I'm addicted to resales and tchotchkes.

At least I'm aware of my conditions?

So, today, in the next town over, I got up nice and early to go on the prowl for Beanie Babies... errr baseball cards.  Unfortunately, although the sales were plentiful, I was not able to dig up a single baseball card... not even the obligatory stack of junk wax.  Sad days.

That said, I didn't walk away empty handed.  While there were no BASEBALL cards, I was able to find a few trading cards to stoke an emerging collection of mine:

Yup... because watching the Cubs over the past few seasons hasn't been torturous enough, I still haven't given up on the Bears either.  Even after the tire-fire that was the Trestman Era.

One of the last stops on my trip scratched my card itch, even if they didn't feature diamond stars.  On their 25 cent table, there was a partial set of this 2007 Upper Deck release, a promotion through Jewel Osco to celebrate the Super Bowl participants.

This team was the most fun I'd ever have had watching football and, even though it was a no contest loss, the Devin Hester return on the opening kickoff was one of my favorite moments in sports history.

So, who was left in the partial set?

Easily the biggest name left over. It's too bad the Bears couldn't get him a Superbowl ring that season; however, I think it's safe to assume that Brian has a ticket to Canton anyway.

"Peanut" had a great career here in Chicago, it's just too bad that he couldn't stay healthy these past two seasons. Then again, I don't think anything could have helped this team in that time. It's going to be weird seeing him in a Panthers uniform.

Tommie Harris was another guy that just couldn't stay healthy. He was such a key component of the defense and his being hurt come the playoffs really didn't help their chances... or their chances in subsequent campaigns.

Vasher also played defense; but I'll always remember him for a special teams play the season before, when he returned a touchdown for 108 yds - an NFL record that would stand alone until Devin Hester, the Windy City Flyer and my favorite player of all-time, emerged and tied it a year later.

Finally, we've got Ricky Manning, Jr., who I completely forgot existed. That's not so much a testament to his abilities on the gridiron as it is my turrble memory. This is a statement that I'm certain that my girlfriend will attest to.

As you can see from the perforation marks on the borders, these cards were distributed and sheets and sold for a buck and some change at local Jewel Osco locations.  I was not collecting football cards at that time and I was only passively collecting baseball cards as college was just around the corner; thus, I do not remember this promotion (there's that memory again!).

These two sheets included one for defense, which is the partial that I grabbed, and one for offense.  Here is how that sheet would have appeared at your local grocer back in 2007:

Image nabbed from Amazon

Looks like I'm missing another possible Hall of Fame in Lance Briggs, a man my teenage lady classmates swooned over in Hunter Hillenmeyer and 2012 Superbowl champ with the Ravens Brendon Ayanbadejo.  I guess I'll have to keep my eyes peeled at future garage sales.

As for the offense sheet, I have no idea who was on that - I cannot find a large enough image on the internet to decipher nor can I find a checklist.  One would figure names like Rex Grossman & Devin Hester are on it and I can make out a kicker on the tiny image I did find; so, Robbie Gould made the cut as well.

These cards will make excellent additions to my burgeoning Bears collection, which, like my CATRC,  is a quest to add one card of everyone who has played for the Monsters of the Midway.  Also like my CATRC, it's a fools errand; every single nameless guard does not have a card and there have been far less football card sets across history produced than baseball.

Nevertheless, one rainy afternoon last October, I decided that my CATRC was getting stale, so why not start one up for my second favorite pro sports franchise?  I guess when this one gets boring, the White Sox better watch out.  A large dimebox at the LCS provided an ample to start to this mission.

Anyway, next time I have nothing to say about baseball, I'll bust open the Bears binder and show off the gestation of that amass of cards.

Lastly, while I was unable to find any baseball cards at the Garage Sale Day, that doesn't mean I wasn't able to find anything baseball related:

A full-size plastic batting helmet for 50 cents?  Why the hell not?  I'm often told I shouldn't be allowed outside without a helmet anyway.

Then again, after yesterday's no-hitter by Cole Hamels illustrated the excruciating dearth of offense this Cubs team has been going through, I don't know that I want to go outside wearing Cubs swag.  I mean, this team is young and still growing and shows plenty of promise, so I'm far from actually upset and I still have high hopes for the long run, but it's still frustrating.

Deep breaths, Tony; you're using run on sentences again.

I can neither confirm nor deny that this frustration has led to two consecutive posts involving football.... yes I can; it does.

Fingers crossed that the Cubs will stop playing down to their opponents and cease being beat up by the likes of the last-place Phillies.

At least I have garage sales to keep me sane, even if my baseball team of choice does not.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Outfielder or Half Back?

Lately I've been monitoring Ebay for cheap vintage cards.  When I say vintage, I'm not talking about 70's Topps here - I mean 50's and earlier vintage.  At 68% percent of the way through the Cubs All-Time Roster, most of the players that I have yet to acquire played in the days before the microwave oven.

Obviously, the prices for even the commons of these sorts of card are a bit steeper than modern cards - antiques and all that.  But, since I'm a low-end collector who gets the card more for the player than for the resale value, I can usually find weathered vintage for the price of a McD's dollar menu lunch.

The latest such find was delivered to my doorstep yesterday afternoon:

It may look like Rocky Balboa after a few rounds with Ivan Drago; but, it's in one piece and you can still tell who it is.  A 1948 Leaf for three bucks shipped?  I'll take it even if it's seen better days.

There are several obvious flaws with this aged piece of cardboard:  paper loss, an unidentifiable stain on the upper right, rounded and sheared corners, etc., but the first one I noticed wasn't a result of time.  Rather, Leaf's colorizing folks seem to have gotten the Cubs color scheme backwards - never in team history has the Cubs symbol had blue lettering with a red circle.

I guess this would be the equivalent of today's photoshopping faux pas.

It's a good thing all of the text on the back is still there and legible because I didn't really know anything about Mr. Aberson other than his name.

It looks like the hometown kid had a notable start to his career as during his initial call-up, he knocked in all of the team's runs with a grand salami in a late-season Cubs win.  In total, he batted .279 in 161 PA's during his 1947 audition.

It was all downhill from there.  Aberson only got into 16 more games across the next two seasons where he batted well under the Mendoza Line, well before the Medoza Line was a thing.  What a hipster.

After a couple seasons in the high minors, he retired to pursue his first love.  What was that, you ask?

Cliff during the 1946 NFL season
Image courtesy of

Why football of course!

Actually, before Cliff had ever even swung a bat in the Major Leagues, he had already played on the national level in pro sports.

While serving for the Army Air Force in the Central Europe Campaign in the waning days of WWII, his skills on the gridiron, he attracted the attention of a pro-scout who immediately recommended him to one of the biggest names in the history of the NFL:  Curly Lambeau.

That's right - this Cub was also a Packer... boo! hiss!

I'm not sure, but I doubt this statue was earned for his discovery of Aberson
Image courtesy of

The halfback got into 10 games with Green Bay in 1946, posting 161 rushing yards on 48 attempts with 184 passing yards, while still playing concurrently in the minor league system of the Cubs (who had signed him after an open tryout just before he entered the service).  Eventually, he had to make the tough decision as to which sport he wanted to stick with.

"I actually prefer to play football," Aberson told The Sporting News late in 1947. "But the future in baseball is much greater, and your playing days should be longer. I didn't hesitate a minute when the opportunity came to give up football for a chance in the majors."

This is the same reasoning we hear today from men such as Jeff Samardzija chose the National Pastime over America's Game.  Some things never change, huh?

That said, as his career on the diamond was dying, he must've regretted that choice somewhat.  So, after he decided to give baseball up for good in 1950, it was in order to try out for the old Chicago Cardinals.  Unfortunately, it wasn't to be and he did not make the squad.

This got me thinking though; had any other Cubs player participated in both the NFL and MLB?  The answer is yes, but just one more:

Paddy Driscoll is the only other such Cub - no Bo Jacksons or Deion Sanders to be found here.  I've profiled Mr. Driscoll on this blog before here, so I won't go into too much detail, but, he is extra notable for having played for the both the Cubs and the full-grown Bears.

Oh and yes this football card reps John in my CATRC binder because he has had just one, count 'em one, baseball card ever produced and I am far from being able to afford or justify buying a 1919 Zeenut card.

On the flipside, Cliff had just that one baseball card and no football cards - since, you know, he was barely there and football cards weren't really a thing yet.  So, I took to the Rookies smart phone and whipped up a quick card to fill in that gap:

Ugly as sin; but, alas, we cannot ignore history.  Paddy had a card for each stage of his sporting career - fairs fair.

Also, this seems to be the only image that has survived from Cliff's time in the NFL.

Most importantly, I learned all of this just from finding a beat up, ancient card on an online auction site that I was able to bring home for the cost of a large Red Bull - like which, this stimulated my mind too and I don't feel like I'm going to have a heart attack at any given second.  Win/win.

This is why I love bargain hunting - or, as my family refers to it, being a cheap ass.

*P.S., sorry if I was overly harsh on ya'll Packer-backers - I'm just a jealous Bears fan!

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Force is Strong With This One

Man - so I went about a full year without making any trades (gosh, I am socially awkward) and then I went and made two within the same week. Plus, I've already got a third one brewing right now.  I guess I feel the need to make up for lost time (a lot of it).

JediJeff of the wonderful 2x3 Heroes, who I've come to find out used to live in the next town over from me before I moved, called dibs on the Fleer throwbacks from this post and I was happy to send them over to him; his Throwback Thursday posts need fuel after all!  

I wasn't expecting anything back, but lo and behold, an envelope showed up in my mailbox yesterday from the fan of the other team in town.  In it were plenty of Cubs cards to add to my collection:

Every time the Cubs go on a cold streak or pry defeat from the jaws of victory against teams like Milwaukee or Cincy, I remind myself that most of them only just shed prospect status.  Then I remind myself that at least they aren't prospects like Ty Griffin.  This #1 pick never got past AA - but, still a cool card for the college uniform.

Sidebar - the Cubs' 1988 draft is vomit-inducing.  Only three players even made the Majors, Kevin Roberson, Chris Pritchett & Jesse Hollins, Roberson being the first in Rd. 16 and Pritchett not even for the Cubs.  These three combined for a -1.6 WAR across just 230 games... and I thought 2005 was bad.

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I adore Conlon Collection.  The photography is amazing, the layout is simple and the player selection is vast.  After all, outside of pre-WWII vintage (some not even that), these are often the only cards available for these guys.

I mean, how often does Charlie Root show up on cardboard?  The Cubs' all-time leader in wins (201) got some love from TCMA back in the day, but that's about it.  On the other hand, the HOFer Hartnett shows up every now and then in modern products; however, he's no Sandberg or Banks.

Well speak of the devil - a new Ernie is still always welcome to my collection and Panini's Hometown Heroes might be one of my favorite recent sets.  The bright colors and relatively simple layout seem like a combination of '58 and '65 Topps; the best of both worlds, at that, and two of my favorite releases all-time.

Again, the player selection in this set is top notch.  I mean, adding Banks to the checklist is far from going out on a limb, but the last time the 1989 Rookie of the Year had a card printed in his name, he was still an active player.

These are my first two cards from 2015 Donruss.  I don't hate the set like what seems to be a majority of the blogosphere, but I don't love them either - I'm lukewarm.  It just doesn't really bring anything new to the table and is too similar to last year's collection.

However, I need to beef up my Soler PC and this shiny Preferred insert is pretty neat.  I love the inclusion of a subtle, secondary photo on the bottom right - it's a unique little quirk.  The Sandberg is cool too; but, I have to wonder why they photoshopped the color of his number and the striping on his pants from red to blue... that seems to make zero sense.

More Ryno!  I'm fairly certain that I already have the All-Star card on the left; but I'm definitely not going to complain.  Plus, the Studio is definitely new to me and the fact that the photos in this set looks like high school yearbook glamour shots adds a campy charm that I've always enjoyed.

Every set needs something that sets it apart from the rest.

A couple of cards from sets that I don't really have much of.  The 2008 Documentary card is, I think, only the second from the release that I've added to my collection.  I like the idea of the set, even if the execution left something to be desired (why not use photos from the game depicted?).  Plus, they picked a good year to do that set because 2008 was a year in Cubs history that deserves to be documented game-by-game.

But not the playoffs... God, not the playoffs.

Speaking of 2008, Jimmy Ballgame really grew on me that season.  Despite his contentious at best relationship with Chicago baseball fans and his apparent declining skill-set and the time of his acquisition, he ended being a key piece of the offense that year and had some of my favorite moments of the season, i.e. his two homers in one inning against the White Sox and his big homerun against his former club, Cardinals.

Both of those 2013 rookie "stars" ended up with the Cubs.  Chapman was a throw in with Arodys Vizcaino when the Cubs traded Paul Maholm to Atlanta, but made only a few token appearances out of the pen before being relegated to the Indy leagues.  Neal was a waiver claim in the thick of the "roster jenga" years,

Neal was interesting to me because he suffered a season ending injury in only his 2nd game with the club.  That injury occurred on a play that also saw Matt Guerrier's season come to an end and Dioner Navarro taking a serious enough blow that the Cubs needed to call-up a third catcher,

1 play - 3 injuries.  That's rough.

Some Fleer Ultra was in the mix as well.  Shawon was an early favorite of mine as a kid, mostly because of the odd spelling of his first name, but still a favorite.

Jose will always hold a special place in my heart for being the main piece in the trade that brought Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to Wrigley Field in 2003.  12 years later and that trade still blows me away.

We close out the envelope with some more glossy 90's pieces.  I love that bunting shot on the Chico Walker card!

Overall, this was a fantastic return for a few throwbacks that didn't even fit into my collection.  JediJeff, you are a very generous man and I look forward to trading with you again in the future,  I will forever be setting aside my throwbacks and White Sox cards for ya!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Macho Machado Man

So, I think Allen & Ginter dropped today?  I don't know; maybe it did.  Did anyone else hear this?

Jokes aside, while the card collecting world has entered it's annual fit of Ginter love, I'm not partaking because I've always been a bit underwhelmed by the brand.  Most likely, it's due to my collecting habits; but, the graphic designer in me is a bit bored by the repetitive designs necessitated by the source material.

Thus, instead of posting my latest finds from Topps' millionth different "throwback set" (Heritage, Archives, Ginter, etc.), I'm showing off the latest autograph that I added to my CATRC on the cheap:

Roberto Machado is far from a big-name (and actually named Robert) and since the card comes from an unlicensed set, I was able to add this signature to my binder for a whopping 65 cents.  Sorry Roberto - your card collecting stock is worth ten cents less than a Milky Way at my local corner store.

This despite being hand-numbered 317 out of a scant 6,995.  So exclusive,

I'm being overly sarcastic again though; I do like this card.  Royal Rookies is one of many oddball sets that I've always been attracted to - life is boring in a Topps-only world.  Even if their design looks like it was created in Microsoft Word circa 1998 - it's kitsch-y

I've seen this set of prospects dated as both 2000 and 2001 and since I did not really collect much at that time, I have no idea which is correct.  But apparently each pack came with an on-card auto like this one; so, that's cool.  Even if it ended up being an obscure no-namer.

No Google Images, not THAT Machado...
Image courtesy of

It's too bad that Machado didn't live up to his prospect status.  In fact, "Macho Machado" wasn't a prospect at all when this set came out, having played in the minors since 1993 and making MLB cameos every year since 1996.

He still carved out a longish career as a defensively-minded back up catcher, lasting in the Bigs through 2004.  His Cubs tenure started in 2001 as part of the squad that choked away an almost certain playoff spot and ended when he was traded to Milwaukee the next June.

Machado had already been represented in my CATRC collection in the proper attire, though he doesn't have many Cubs cards at all.  In fact, the one that I already had is the only other one that I'm even aware of:

Well, it's a parallel - so, technically there's a separate base card out there too, but that's splitting hairs.  It's a beaut of a parallel though, that rainbow foil looks surprisingly good under the lens of a camera.  this one is even numbered too; however, it's a slightly more rare /40 than my new Royal Rookie.

I was a bit conflicted in replacing this card in my binder; but, a Cubs autograph trumps a Cubs parallel every time.

Sidenote - here is where I'm going to go on my semi-regular rant about wanting sets like UD 40-Man and Topps Total to make a reappearance.  What other set would include a guy like Machado and I would love to see backup catchers, middle relievers and utility infielders get their share of the spotlight for once.

It would make my goal of collecting one card for every Cubs player much, much easier.

So, in summation, Topps produces several sets focused on looking back in time.  It's a market steeped in nostalgia and tradition, I get that, but can we maybe drop one of them and add a set that actually fleshes out the present day?  Am I asking too much?

Backup catchers need love too!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gifted by Gavin

A few weeks ago, I idly mentioned to Gavin of Baseball Card Breakdown fame that I had a card on his want list that I was willing to send his way, not really expecting to hear back.  I had never had direct contact with him before and I didn't think he'd seen the message; so, I forgot about the proposal entirely.

Well, silly me, not only did Gavin receive my message, but he had been trying to contact me and simply could not locate my e-mail address.  Turns out I have made my contact information quick difficult to locate - d'oh!

Thankfully, he finally tracked me down and we executed the proposed trade... well, he did.  His part of the deal arrived promptly; however, I'm still trying to get his return package in the mail.  You see, a torn hamstring makes it really difficult to go through my storage and gather the cards needed for his haul.  I promise I haven't forgotten Gavin!

In the meantime, let me show off Gavin's goods:

This was the centerpiece of the deal.  Seeing as I'm a cheap-ass and I don't like harassing people, I don't have a lot of autographs in my collection.  That said, that doesn't mean I don't like to have them,  So, even though he amounted to squat in the Bigs, I'm happy to swap this Signature Series beauty into Orie's spot in my CATRC binder.

Meanwhile, I'll be making a more conscious effort to add inexpensive John Hancock's to said binder.

Here we have a couple of hurlers who failed to deliver on their immense promise.  Even so, both players hold a soft spot in my heart for being a part of the team that really cemented my Cubs allegiance - the 2003 squad.

I love the firework motif on the Woody card - too bad I didn't have this one around for the fourth!  Also, I wonder if Prior received a certificate and a pizza party from UD for making the honor roll, like I did way back when?

Two players for the price of one!  Neither one of these players really delivered on their promise either, I'd say the scales for each were exceptionally different.  Pie was a prospect flameout from when the Cubs were fascinated with "toolsy" athletes and Sori was never, ever going to live up to the expectations cast when he signed his mega-deal in 2007.

A couple of new Sosa's for my player collection.  Though I was only a casual fan at the time, living in Chicago during the '98 season made it impossible for this kid not to be fascinated with Sosa.  I was too young to understand the implications of steroids; so, I'm immensely grateful that I got to experience the home run chase with that purity.

Fleer Emotion seems to be a cult favorite around the blogosphere.  I'm not as big of a fan as others, mostly Fleer Adjectives would have been a more accurate name for the collation and that annoys me more than it probably should.

Also, speaking as a mass media student, I quite like the filmstrip set-up of the "Fame Game" insert.

Gavin closed off this package with a 2012 gold parallel of Shawn Camp.  Campy looked like a golden pickup and a surprise workhorse for the Cubs bullpen that season, leading the league with 80 appearances.  This workload weighed heavy on him in the season's second half, though he still posted a 3.59 ERA in his 77.2 innings.  But, it caught up to him the next season, with that ERA ballooning to over 7.

This card gets bonus awesome points for the sweet 1912 throwback jersey they sported against the Giants that June.  It's a good thing they didn't turn out "Camp-y!"

N'yuck, n'yck, n'yuck.

Thus concludes Gavin's generous trade package.  It's my first trade in several months, maybe even close to a calendar year, so it's nice to shake off the cobwebs and communicate with people.

Gavin, I promise to have your stuff in the mail by the end of this week; I'm now off of my crutches and raring to dig through my trade box.  Thank you for your patience!