In short, I'm a pretty happy baseball fan right now.
However, as grand as that Cubs win in game two of the World Series (I just love typing World Series in reference to the Cubs) was, it wasn't the only baseball-related event that brought me joy that day. As an added bonus, I also received a generous PWE from Gavin of Baseball Card Breakdown.
Gavin always weaves a great amount of thought into each and every one of his mailings, so I was shaking with antici.......... pation (I just finally watched that Rocky Horror remake... woof) when I sat down at my card-desk to open up his envelope. I have to say, I was not disappointed with what I found inside, either.
Of course, Gavin is one of the most skilled and prodigious custom card makers on the blogosphere today, so it wouldn't be the full BCB experience without finding at least one of his expert creations within the trade package. This Kris Bryant, stylized as a 1933 Goudey, is amongst the best of his works, in my humble opinion.
After all, it truly feels like and has the weight of an authentic card in your hands, it has a detailed write-up on the back (which I forgot to document) and who doesn't love the Goudey design? The only way it could feel any more like the real McCoy is if it were properly aged...
Well, would you look at that - he was one step ahead of the curve.
As you can plainly see, the purveyor of Baseball Card Breakdown thinks of just about everything when it comes to making his cards and spares no effort in the process. I tip my cap to you, Gavin.
That said, there was still yet one more custom creation to be found within the plain white envelope:
I'm a die-hard Cubs fan, through and through, and my loyalties run quite deep. However, what baseball fan doesn't admire and respect the golden voice of Vin Scully? He just sounds like baseball! While I have always been partial to Pat Hughes, Ron Santo and Harry Caray when it comes to broadcast work, there is definitely room in my heart for the Voice of the Dodgers.
That said, I do find this inclusion to be a bit odd. Was this a bit of taunting by Gavin, left over from the tightly-fought NLCS against the Trolley Dodgers? No matter, I still quite enjoy this tobacco-like original.
While the rest of the package was sans-customs, Gavin certainly did a great job customizing the package to my likes and needs:
Believe it or not, this is actually my very first Cubs sticker by Fleer, from any set. Isn't it amazing that even though sets from the "junk wax" era were more over-produced than a Michael Bay film and yet, we collectors still have needs from this time period?
Accompanying the sticker, was a 2008 Topps Chrome rookie card of the eventual Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto. Furthermore, the card definitely has a "refractor-y" feel to it, but my non-expert eyes can't be entirely sure. Like the Fleer sticker, this is my first Chrome card from that set, so I have no base of comparison. In the future, I'll have to do some more research.
Speaking of the future, it was at this point that this trade mailing took a distinctly prospective turn:
Ahhh - Cubs prospects from the turn of the millenium... nothing makes me more grateful for the team and farm system currently on the field than Cubs "blue-chippers" from that time period. It's especially evident as to why when you look at that top card from 2000 Opening Day - who needs Lance Berkman when you've got Corey Patterson and... gulp... Roosevelt Brown.
Obviously, the Cubs farm system is much stronger now, as evidenced by the fact that all five of the club's top prospects from 2014 are currently on the World Series roster. However, it took a long time and a lot of change.
As you can tell from these 2010 Pro Debut singles, things weren't much better a decade later. Josh Vitters was another in a long line of high-profile, first round draft busts by the club. That said, he did crack the Big League roster in 2012 and, thus, this minor league card will slot nicely into my "Nothing Major" collection. Also, Mr. Vitters is still trying to right his ship, playing with Bridgeport in the indy Atlantic League in 2016.
As for James Leverton, he never got any higher than AA in the Cubs chain. The former 8th round pick in 2008 and Peoria Chief eventually got as close as AAA in 2013 within the Marlins organization; however, he was out of professional baseball by the end of 2014.
With these 2014 Pro Debut singles, you can see that things were starting to look a little better for the Cubs, two years into the reign of Theo Epstein. Jeimer Candelario remains a top prospect (with power and trade value) who made his Major League debut this summer (he'll join Vitters in that "Nothing Major" binder). Meanwhile, Dillon Maples is still an intriguing arm, but can't seem to stay healthy and is starting to run out of time. But, there's still a chance the high-upside arm pays off.
Unfortunately, for our next 2014 Pro Debut guest, the clock has already struck midnight:
Chadd Krist was drafted in the 9th round of the 2012 draft and never made it past backup catcher status in any level of the Cubs chain and topped out with the high-A Daytona Cubs in 2014, as seen in this card. He eventually found his way over to the Marlins org and then, briefly, the White Sox, but was cut by the latter after Spring Training. According to LinkedIn, Chad has now joined the ranks of the rest of us working stiffs.
Regardless of how their careers turned out, I quite enjoy flipping through minor league cards. The unfamiliar team names and uniforms, seeing MLB'ers before they made it, the opportunity to research obscure names... they're just fun. Gavin obviously did his research on me when crafting this collation.
Of course, if looking at those Pro Debut cards made anything clear, it's that prospecting is an inherently risky business. One never knows how a minor leaguer's career is going to turn out, no matter how talented or high-profile they are. Thus, I'm only into minor cards for the novelty, not the investment factor.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, tried and true vintage will always be a safe bet. After all, rarely do I get a card as old as 1960 in a PWE trade - this "original" Frank Thomas beauty was both a surprise and a welcome sight! Even if it pictures him with the Cincinnati Reds; I mean, how can anyone not enjoy seeing that old school, cuddly Cubs logo in the corner?
With that, we've reached the conclusion of Gavin's trade envelope and what a PWE it was. All in all, I walked away with three expertly-crafted customs, two additions to my "Nothing Major" collection, a vintage semi-star, and every single card contained within was new to me. What more can a collector ask for? Gavin - I hope what I sent your way came at least close to matching the fun I had opening your mailing.
The only thing that's more fun that rifling through an awesome trade package would be a few more World Series wins by the Cubs. Here's hoping Kyle Hendricks can continue the fun at Wrigley on Thursday.