Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Braves' Post Season Dreams Crushed

The Braves' post season dreams ended in dramatic fashion today. A few days ago many Braves fans, including myself, were feeling great about our chances in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. Well all of that fell apart tonight in a way I don't believe many people ever saw coming.

Game 5, winner takes all. The Braves rolled out Mike Foltynewciz, winner of game 2. I was nervous with Folty pitching on short rest...especially after the way Kuechel pitched in game 4. I was finishing up work and rushing home to catch the first pitch. While I sat at the stop light on the off exit ramp I saw a notification on my phone that the score was now 0-1. Then 0-2 before I got home. Ouch. As much as I love Folty, I knew this wasn't good. By the time I walked in my front door, only minutes after the game, the score was 0-4. I sat down hoping they could put out the fire, but it was just too much for Folty. Manager Brian Snitker pulled Folty after 2/3rd inning and brought in 17 game winner Max Fried. Max walked the pitcher with the bases loaded. By the time the Braves finally made 3 outs the score was 0-10. This set a MLB Playoffs record...unfortunately the Braves were on the other side of that.

Now fans are asking what happened? The expectations were high. Yeah there were some naysayers in the media that were picking the Cardinals, but most had picked the Braves to reach the NLCS. So what did happen? Or shall I ask what didn't happen? The Braves were 5 for 39 with runners in scoring position. That's what happened.

Braves should have won this series. They should have won game 4. They had so many chances to score and couldn't. The Cardinals consistently was able to get a runner on base and then advance them. They played A-B-C baseball. The Braves couldn't. It's as simple as that.

The Braves were heavily scrutinized in the national media all throughout this series. From questioning Brian Snitker's managerial decisions, to Acuna's lack of hustle, plenty of people had their opinions about why this team fell apart in the post season. While I am pissed over what has transpired today, I have to give the Cardinals credit. They played hard. They never gave up. A lot like the Braves all season, they kept fighting until the very end.

The Braves locked up the NL East early and after winning they took care of the SF Giants in the following two games. Then more injuries claimed even more players on the already banged up roster. Snitker was put in a tough position. He needed to rest players like Acuna and Freeman, all while trying to figure out who would be on the Post Season roster. He played around with the line up, moving people around on the field trying to figure out what to do. As a result, the Braves basically limped into the Playoffs. This immediately had me concerned.

The Cardinals on the other hand had to play their best baseball to stave off the Cubs and the Brewers, only to win the division on the last day of the regular season. They were hungry. They were already running on adrenaline. The Braves were running on Icy Hot.

I don't care what Freddie says, his elbow was hurting him and effected his swing. I love Freddie. I love how he plays the game. I love how he puts this team on his shoulders night in and night out. In the post game interview tonight he squarely put the blame on him for not showing up. He was adamant that his elbow wasn't bothering him. Freddie isn't the type of guy to make excuses and I respect him for that. His lack of offense surely didn't help, but he wasn't the only one to "disappear".

As I type this post I'm watching the post game show on Fox Sports South and Brian McCann just announced his retirement. Dang. We all knew it was coming. He signed a one year deal. This was his 15th MLB season. McCann may not have provided a lot of offense during this series, however he was invaluable behind the plate.

With McCann's departure it opens the question of who else will be parting ways during the off season? There were several players on one year deals this year. Names like Josh Donaldson, Nick Markakis and Dallas Kuechel. I expect the team to look different next year. I don't know if Liberty Media, owners of the Braves will open their wallet to re-sign some of these guys. Both Donaldson and Kuechel have gone on record saying they want to come back, but this remains to be seen.

As much as this stings and will take some time to get over, I think this team is going to be hanging around for awhile. There is still an awful lot of young talent in the pipeline that we'll be seeing. The young players on the team will only get better. They'll learn from this experience...everyone will. The Braves will be back in 2020. After all, literally no one in the media picked the Braves to even win the division.

This sucks. To go out like this, a 13-1 clubbing is not the ideal way to exit the season. It's going to take a lot of time for me to get over this...but I'm a Braves fan through and through. I'm proud of what this team was able to accomplish this year. With every team there will be peaks and valleys and today the Braves just happened to fall off the peak and into a deep valley.

All season long different players stepped up and provided some memorable moments for the team. This was the first season in quite a while where I didn't want to miss a regular season game. The team was just too exciting not to watch. All the young talent, both on the mound and in the dugout. The gnarly veterans that were brought in to help with the young kids. The late season roster moves to bring in bullpen help and speed on the base paths. It was a great season. Thanks to the Topps Now program, at least I have a lot of great cards to remember these moments. Names like Adam Duvall, Matt Joyce, Billy Hamilton...players that don't often receive baseball cards. Fun times...well until tonight that is.

So, where to now? At least for me I get to turn more of my attention to my Carolina Panthers in the NFL. The new NBA season is just around the corner too. While my Charlotte Hornets aren't expected to do much, I'm excited about some of the changes made and will follow them through out their season. On the hobby front, I've got lots and lots of junk wax boxes that are waiting to be ripped. I'll be building most if not all of these sets so stay tuned for some box break posts and other stuff.

In closing, thank you Braves for a great year of baseball. I know it didn't work out the way that any of us wanted, but we have to deal with the cards we were dealt (no pun intended) and now we turn our focus to the off season and making preparations on coming back even stronger a few months from now when spring training gets underway.


Monday, September 30, 2019

Brothers and Cardboard

This past weekend one of my younger brothers. Chase, drove up from the SC coast and crashed with me and my family. We don't get to see much of each other, however it's alway good to spend sometime together. My older brother, Toby, invited him up to the Charlotte, NC region where Toby and I live to attend an event we were setting up at in Monroe, NC.

A few years ago my brother got in with a group from Union County (NC) Public Library as they hosted their first ever kids friendly "comic convention" called Super-Con. Two years ago they moved the event from the actual library to an odd, but super nice location in the NC Agricultural Center. While my involvement last year was really helping out my older brother at his table where he peddled various items, I decided to request my own table.

Toby and had been talking it up for quite a while when we'd get to see Chase at Myrtle Beach when we'd gather at our mom's house. I really didn't think Chase would be interested in the event as he doesn't read or collect comics, but he called me one day last week asking if he could crash on my couch if he decided to come. Of course I told him to come on...then my wife proceeded to make me clean the house in anticipation of his arrival.

Chase is a several years younger than me, however there was a time we both we set up at card shows. We would set up and sell our duplicates and inserts we pulled in order to have a little more spending money to buy more cards with. This was in the early to mid-90's. Neither one of us ever had anything really good to sell, but I do remember him pulling a Jose Cruz RC from Upper Deck SPx. At the time he was a hot prospect and several collectors were chasing his cards.

All weekend Chase and I's conversations would always seem to come back to either baseball cards or wrestling. I knew Chase watched people break current boxes of trading cards on YouTube and I knew that he really didn't have the desire to jump back into the hobby. However on our way home from the event he told me he still had all of his cards from his childhood stored away at his dad's house in FL. One set he said he would love to finish was the 1996 Donruss Preferred set. I remember him buying that giant metal tin hobby "box" and working the set, but that was ages ago. I figured he let them all go like so many people do when they fall away from the hobby.

Upon learning of this info, I told him about the Trading Card Database website that I had recently started using. I encouraged him to set up an account and once he retrieved his cards to load up his profile with cards he could trade and enter his want list for the 1996 Preferred set. I really enjoyed the hobby talk as I rarely have people locally to talk with about this sort of thing.

Later Saturday evening my whole family sat down for family movie night and Chase joined in. My two young daughters also really enjoyed having their uncle around. Before we got started with the movie I handed him two sealed packs of 1991 Fleer Ultra baseball. He told me those were the first packs he had ripped in 15+ years. Wow. I can't even imagine going that long with crackin' some wax!

Sunday we all went to church, grabbed a bite to eat afterwards and then headed home to watch the Carolina Panthers/Houston Texans football game. Before you knew it the game was over and he had to hit the road. I don't know if he'll ever read this blog post, but I had a great time re-connecting of sorts over the weekend. I know he's my brother and all, but we really didn't grow up together so we've never had the strongest of relationships. However thanks to baseball cards, we had memories to share and a common interest to talk about all weekend. This was easily one of the better weekends I've had in quite some time.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Box Break: 1991 Fleer Football

About a month ago I followed up on a Facebook Marketplace ad I saw for several different boxes of junk wax for sale. It took a few weeks for the seller and I to get our schedules on the same page, but when I finally met the guy to purchase a few boxes of baseball cards I wanted, he brought more than he originally had advertised in his Facebook post. Two boxes that I bought were 1991 and 1992 Fleer football. I only grabbed them because they were dirt, dirt cheap and I thought it would be fun opening. I really didn't pay much attention to the NFL until 1995 when my home town of Charlotte, NC was awarded the Carolina Panthers and they began their inaugural season. After a quick Twitter pole to decide which box I'd open first, I tackled the 1991 box two weeks ago in partial celebration of the 2019 NFL season that was kicking off. I was really excited about busting this old wax until I got a few packs in. Ugh. This was not pretty. So much not pretty that I almost abandoned this post all together. I imagine if you've ever opened up any of this product then you may know what I'm talking about. 

I had no intention of trying to build this set as I just don't have that much interest in pre-1995 football releases...that and I'm more of a baseball guy anyhow. However I was looking forward to pulling a few cards of retired players such as Reggie White and of course the Provision insert cards. Just looking at the Dan Marino that was prominently featured on the top of the box got me all excited. When I opened my first pack...well... wasn't a Marino Provision, but instead his base card. I can forgive the ugly design. In fact the ugly design with the gradient green background is part of this sets overall charm...but look how horrible off centered the card is. A first I though it was just a bad cut card. Afterall, this was the early 90's and I've seen a lot of miscut / horribly cut trading cards from this era. I just chalked it up to a bad pack. Nothing more, nothing less. Next pack.

Sigh. More of the same. Seriously Fleer? Was my luck that bad that I'd get two packs back to back that were cut this badly? Surely not. Let's move on to pack 3.

Boom! My first Provisions card...but crap, it's off centered too. Not as bad as the base cards, but still a bummer. Sweet looking card though. My only real experience with Howie Long is in the Fox NFL pre-game show. I never saw him play, but of course I know of the reputation that proceeds him on the field.

While the next few packs didn't yield anything exciting, a few packs in and I landed this Joe Montana All-Pro. Again, off centered. Like the Howie Long Provision, it wasn't as bad as the base card.

This Troy Aikman was bad...and I don't mean bad in a good way! This is down right pathetic Fleer. Seriously? Is every card, pack, box this bad? If so, why would they release them? After a handful of packs into the box I just all desire to continue opening packs. The thought of opening 36 packs of this product was torture. It didn't help that while I was opening these packs my Carolina Panthers were struggling against the Los Angeles Rams too. Alas, I continued to make my way through the box.

What's so special about Dolphins' kicker, Reggie Roby. Well nothing, unless your name is Jon and you run the blog A Penny Sleeve for your Thoughts. I remember Jon mentioning in a semi-recent post of his little player collection of Roby so I made sure to snap a pic of this card to see if he needed it...which he did. Well at least some good came out of this box.

The next Provisions card was of Mike Singletary. Great player (or so I hear), but horrible coach. Still off centered, but still a nice looking card. Perhaps I'm starting to feel a little bit better about this box...

Wait a minute. When did Deadpool play football?!

I do remember watching Randall Cunningham play a few games towards the end of his career. In fact early in Cam Newton's career Randall's name was brought up a few times in Carolina. I didn't care for this Provision card as much as the other two previously pulled.

Bo knows horribly miscut cards. Like most of the inserts, the horizontal centering isn't that bad, but the vertical centering is off again. Still kind of fun pulling a Bo Jackson card.

The last card of note pulled from the box was another All-Pro insert, this time of the Redskins' Cornerback, Darrell Green. Before the Carolinas were awarded the Panthers, a lot of people in the area were fans of the Redskins...including my late father. I'm sure I watched a few games with my dad, but because I didn't know much about the game of football I don't recall much about Darrell.

Overall opening this box was more of a chore than it was fun. This was the second box I opened from the big lot of boxes I bought and while I don't regret buying it, I'm left with a lot of cards that I have zero desire to keep. I've already added all of the inserts to my Trading Card Database trade lists, but I don't think I'll bother listing all of the common base. I may go back and list some of the bigger names just to see if anyone is interested. I'm walking away with a few cards for various collections of my own as well as now know to steer clear of 1991 Fleer football moving forward. I've still yet to open the 1992 Fleer football box and I just pray that I have a better experience with that box than I did with this one.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sunday Verse

Psalm 46:10

New International Version

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Monday, August 26, 2019

Jack of All Trades - My Take on the Baseball Card Documentary

My wife has recently been on a documentary kick, watching all sorts of different shows on Netflix. The other night she texted me from the other living room (yeah, she really did) a link to Jack of All Trades and asked if I wanted to watch it. We both read the the Netflix description and thought it sounded good. My wife did ask me what the "scandal" mentioned was all about and I have to say I had no clue. If nothing else, this just made me more interested in watching the documentary.

Before I get too far into this post, spoiler warning. If you haven't watched it then you may want to stop reading, bookmark this post and then come back afterwards to share your thoughts.

I was prompted to create this post after I posted on Twitter yesterday afternoon that I was watching the documentary and the comments I received were all over the place. Apparently there are a lot of different polarizing opinions and after viewing the documentary myself, I can see why. Going in I thought this was purely about baseball cards, but cards only play a part of the story. This is as much a documentary on co-producer Stu Stone's life as it is on baseball cards.

It starts off with Stu going home to Toronto to retrieve boxes of stuff from his childhood that were put away until recently. Going through the boxes he finds a Cabbage Patch Kids, Magic School Bus toy, My Pet Monster and other items from the late 70's / early 80's. Of course he also finds a few singles, a few boxes and factory sets of mostly junk wax. He boxes all of them up and through a call to his sister, plans on taking them to a local card show to sell and make big money. This is where I started to wonder what was up with the documentary. Through some home video of Stu's bar mitzvah, he explains that his dad, Jack, used to own a baseball card store in Toronto called Sluggers. Turns out he was sort of a big deal in the card business for a if that was the case wouldn't Stu have known that a 1987 Topps set or a 1991 Upper Deck factory set wasn't worth the cardboard it was printed on?

The production of the documentary was pretty crude. The other director (and Stu's childhood friend)
Harvey Glazer, also stars and would often open his mouth and ruin the flow of the documentary. From the home video segments and interview style portions of the show, the viewer learns that shortly after that bar mitzvah footage Jack would leave his wife and family. He would fall off the map for the better part of 25 years. This is where the documentary starts to shift gears from being about baseball cards and more about Stu's dysfunctional father.

While I didn't mind the "extra story" regarding Stu and his father (and I use that word lightly), I can see why this annoyed some people. I didn't mind it because a big part of anything collectible is nostalgia and the memories these things we collect bring us. A lot of the things I collect bring back memories from my cards, name it. It's part of the reason why I collect. I had a great relationship with my father up until the time he passed away in 1998 due to cancer. I obviously can't relate with Stu's story, but I did find parts of it sad at times.

Getting back to cards, some of the better parts of the documentary was seeing his interview with Jose Canseco, getting to meet super collector "Foul Ball" Paul Jones and Stu visiting the Topps headquarters. Sooz from A Cardboard Problem even has a cameo!

Overall I found the documentary to be interesting. The acting was bad, I think everyone can agree on that...but these aren't really actors. That said, if I hadn't seen my father for 25 years and all the sudden I had a chance to talk to him person, I don't think I could have casually sat down as Stu did and interview his father. That said, I would encourage any baseball card collector to take the time to sit down and watch Jack of All Trades at least once. It may not be the documentary most of expected or wanted to see, it was still fun seeing baseball cards being talked about and shown in more of a mainstream media.

If you've watched this before I'd love to hear your comments about it. Several of my Twitter followers have already shared their opinions...which were all over the place! If you haven't watch it yet, it's currently streaming on Netflix at the time of this post.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Nacho Flavored Set Building

Wow, has it been almost a full month since my last post here?! Well, I can explain. I've been busy over on Twitter talking about cards and sharing new acquisitions and working out a trade with @Pgn3540, better known as Nacho Nordberg.

I really don't even remember how our trade got started, but we went back and forth for a few weeks before we finalized a deal and sent each our some cards. Once my package arrive I realized why it Nacho some time to put his offer together as there were four team bags full of cards...99% of them for sets I'm working on building.

Let's start with the cards I was most excited about...Stadium Club. Nacho sent over cards from my want list for 2017, 2018 and a huge stack for 2019. My love for TSC has really increased over the years and completing these three sets has been a goal I set for myself. I haven't bought a box of either of these years and have just relied on buying retail so I appreciate all the help I can get!

If the TSC cards weren't enough, he also sent over a few cards to help me with some flagship Topps sets such as 2016, some 2018 Big League and a single from 2018 Allen & Ginter and 2017 Gypsy Queen.

Surprisingly there were some 1993 Upper Deck in one of the stacks and even one 2009 Goodwin Champions card. These two sets haven't received much attention from me lately so it's nice to add some cards to the set binders, especially '93 that set!

I didn't make it to my LCS on National Baseball Card Day unfortunately and I doubt Nacho knew that...but he included three cards from this year's program. Thanks!!

Finally, we have two shiny Bowman Chrome Braves cards of Cristian Pache and a RC of Mike Soroka. Both of these cards are so beautiful in hand, especially the Pache with the Refractor sheen. I've had so much fun watching the Braves this year and Soroka has been a big part of that. Who would have figured this tall, lanky Canadian would come into the starting rotation and be so dominant this year? 

Thanks again Nacho for all of the help with these various sets. My next move is to update my want lists both here on the blog and over at The Trading Card Database.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Blaster Box Break: 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter

July means several things for me. 1) It's hot. 2) It's humid and 3) Topps Allen & Ginter release month. In past years I had a hobby box already paid for in advance of A&G's release, but this year I wasn't able to do so. My family and I have traveled so much since they got out of school on May 31st that it's been all I could do to keep up w/ other 2019 baseball card sets I'm working on. When I realized I was going to be down at Myrtle Beach, SC this weekend visiting my mother for her birthday, I knew there was a good chance the near by Walmart would have some A&G to help me "scratch that itch". I wasn't wrong. They had the 14 card value packs, the 3 packs w/ gold mini parallels and of course blasters. I grabbed one lone blaster as I'm trying to be a financially responsible adult right now...or at least until I get paid!

Late last night (or was it earlier this morning?) I finally laid down in bed and opened the blaster. I really didn't know what to expect out of A&G this year as I had fully researched the sell sheets, but it's a set that I look forward every year so I really didn't care. I know a lot of collectors like to crap on this release and I simply don't get it. If you don't like the non-baseball inclusions and inserts, then skip the set. I personally don't care that much for Heritage so I don't buy it.

But whatever, let's dig into the contents of my first packs of 2019 Allen & Ginter! First off I have to say that I love the look of the base design this year. I wasn't as fond of the last few years, but I'm really enjoying the look and feel of the 2019 set so far.

My first Atlanta Braves card from the product was none other than Dansby Swanson. This kid is having a heck of a year, posting career highs in HRs all before the All-Star break. I enjoy watching him play so much this was a great way to start off.

The first mini that fell out of the pack was this A&G back Tony Gwynn. While I never got to watch many of his games living on the east coast and all, I've always respected his game and his character off the field. Sucks that baseball lost such a great guy so early and I love the fact that he still gets new cards from time to time. This one will be going into my Hall of Fame PC collection.

The History of Flight cards are beautiful in hand and I look forward to completing the 15 card set. It's kinda perfect too that this home grown NC guy would pull card #1 first as it features Orville and Wilbur Wright.

I feel as if this type of set as been done before, but these are also the types of sets that I really like. Rest assured that I'll be tracking down the rest of the Incredible Equipment cards in the set.

One of the other minis I ended up with was a SP. I don't build the mini sets so this one will be up for trade. Eventually I'll get everything I have for trade listed both on my trade lists here on the blog as well as on The Trading Card Database.

Speaking of SPs I also pulled 4 from the main set. This made me happy because in previous years I swear it seemed like I only pulled a few from a whole hobby box. I'm just starting to build the set and I've already got 4 SPs from one blaster.

I'm not into Astrology and reading horoscopes, but I do like the overall look of these cards. I'm still on the fence whether or not I'll bother building this insert however.

Ginter Greats are another full size insert that I'm on the fence about. In past years I wouldn't have a second thought on whether or not I'd build this set, however this year I'm going to focus more on the non-baseball sets.

Another mini in the box turned out to be my second A&G back, this time of Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. I'm sure I can think of a Cubs collector or two who may be interested in this one.

Speaking of Cubs, I got a retail hit! Full size relic of Kyle Schwarber. Kinda of a boring jersey relic, but aren't most of these days? I wonder how much longer Topps and other card companies will continue to produce boring cards like this?

I've never been much of a horse person so these cards don't do much for me, but just for the heck of it I'll probably go for the set. At least they seem to be easy pulls.

Jealous yet? Seriously, I don't understand this card. Period. Can anyone shed some light on this card for me? Anyone?

These Look Out Below! minis are awesome. I had no idea these fell 1:50 packs. This just made this particular blaster that much more fun. I'd love to complete this set, but I have a feeling this will be a little tougher challenge to complete.

I'll round out the box with two more mini inserts. First we have Collectible Canines. I'm more of a cat person now, but I had several dogs growing of which was a black Labrador. His name was Casey and he was a good dog. Still have some great memories of him and now thanks to this card I have a visual reminder of him of sorts.

The New to the Zoo minis look great. While I've yet to see any other cards from this set, this set is one that I'm sure I''ll enjoy collecting.

I really am looking forward to picking up some more A&G soon. Once I get back home from this weekend beach trip I plan on gearing up my eBay store with the hopes that my sales will help fund the purchase of a hobby box before the prices go up. For me at least this is one of the highlights of the summer as far as this hobby goes and it appears from my sample that Topps has released another great Allen & Ginter set.