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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Post of 2010 For Real - - My Continued Review of 2010-11 Hockey Cards

1As promised, I felt like sending 2010 out with one last post on my opinions of this years crop of hockey card releases thus far.  As you have probably surmised by the last post, with few exceptions, I have been less than thrilled with what we have had available to us.  With new blood on the scene, that being Panini, I think there were some expectations by many collectors that were just simply unattainable.  Anything short of genius would have been considered a failure and Panini has, in this blogger/collector's opinion, done just that...failed.

But this post isn't supposed to be a "shame on you, Panini" post.  I will save that for the other doom-sayers out there in the blog-o-sphere because they do it much better than I.  This is the follow up to my review of the 2010-11 hockey card releases that I have had the privilege (um, yeah that's a good word) of adding to my collection.  I have already expressed my thoughts on Victory, Score, Certified, and Upper Deck. 

Black Diamond has always been one of those sets that kind of sits on the outside looking in.  What I mean is that unless you buy a hobby box of this stuff, you are only going to find those three-pack blisters or an occasional 5-7 pack blaster in a retail store.  It isn't the kind of set that you are going to build by purchasing retail.  In fact, this isn't really a set builders set at all.  It never has been.  Black Diamond is traditionally known for its multi-tiered cards that range from the basic single diamond up to the quad diamond which feature many of today's superstar players.  Because I have been shying away from my LCS as of late, I figured one blaster couldn't hurt.  These cards don't scan very well since they are covered in silver foil so I didn't bother.  Needless to say, I pulled 4 cards that weren't single diamond...a double diamond Chris Pronger and Jordan Staal, a Nick Palmieri Rookie Gems (triple diamond), and a Steven Stamkos quad diamond.  So if anything, at least I got one Penguin card to go into my PC.  Other than that, I don't know why I keep giving this release the time of day.  Unless I see some great discounts on boxes, I don't see myself building this or buying anymore.

Donruss.  I could have just stopped after that period there but in the spirit of full disclosure, I figured I would give the old Panini one more chance to disappoint and anger me.  These haven't been out that long and while returning some items from Christmas, I happened upon some freshly displayed rack packs.  40 cards for $5 comes out to a really cheap per card ratio so I figured it was worth a shot to see what the revival of Donruss would unleash on the world.  I am going out on a limb here but I have to say that I don't hate them.  The cards themselves are by no means the best looking cards out there but they aren't awful.  They feature nice action shots of the players bordered on the right by a stripe of the team colors that extends from top to bottom.  The player name, team, and Donruss logo, despite being a little large, are mostly unobtrusive to the cards themselves.  That backs, on the other hand, look just like every other Panini release and leave a bad taste in your mouth considering how the fronts had offered up something different for a change.  I don't remember how many packs I got but I pulled almost the same "hits" as I would have from a hobby box.  I got 2 Boys of Winter instead of 3, 1 GU instead of 2, 2 Ultimate Draft cards, 1 Tough Times which feature enforcers, 4 Rated Rookies instead of 6, and after seeing the Justin Bieber Fans Of the Game cards floating around Ebay, I am glad I didn't pull any of those.  Overall though, I was pretty happy with this set and once I get around to it, I may try to put this one together.

Artifacts is usually a set that I put together every year since the base cards number to 100 and it is usually fairly easy to complete.  Plus, these always look good in an album.  This year is no different.  The design theme is essentially the same with the player on the front surrounded by some type artificial background.  One year was Greek columns, another year was some gold foil that gave it an antique look.  They have also used a sort of horseshoe design that looked almost like a pattern you would find on some ornate marble architecture.  This year is smoke, or fog.  It reminds me of player introductions before a big game with all the lights out in the arena and only a single spotlight on the ice where the player emerges from the tunnel through a cloud of smoke.  The effect works 10 fold on the Stars and Legends subsets.  I have only picked up a few packs of these so I am no where near being able to put a set together but ultimately I will.  Did I mention they look good in an album?

Last but certainly not least, is O-Pee-Chee.  This is always my white whale set.  Every year I set off down the path of trying to complete this monster but I have yet to do so.  Despite the almost impossibility of completing them, I still have fun trying.  This years set toned down the technicolor, Fruit Stripe gum style from last year and went with a more subtle black and grey border.  Unfortunately, they once again took up too much of the card with the logo.  It takes up 20% of the bottom of the card.  It is written in about a 26 point size font, while the player name is in a 10 point.  It also means the player photo is smaller and because of this, they look like they are all taken from a distance and then cropped to make them look closer.  This is Upper Deck.  The company known for vibrant, full-color, full-action shots that fill most of the card.  I realize there is a different concept applied to O-Pee-Chee but this is starting to get ridiculous.  Each year, it seems like more and more of the photo is being cropped away in favor of the design border.  The card backs look just like the other O-Pee-Chee cards from the last three years...plain grey/brown cardboard with a few player stat lines and the team logo in the background.  Regardless of some of the shortcomings, I still love this set.

The Retro variations are stellar this year as they look kind of like the 73-74 All Star cards and the Marquee Legends and Rookies share the same feel of design with the 76-77 set.  The Stat Kings, Trophy Winners, and Team Leader cards have all been toned down too as they are now on heavy glossy stock instead of the foilboard from last year.  The only foil I have seen so far from what I have pulled are in the parallels of the the Retro Parallel set...the parallels of the parallels.  My only mystery is whether or not there are Retro back variations or not.  I pulled a Sidney Crosby and Marty Turco retro parallel with different player stats on the back.  The Crosby features Niklas Backstrom and the Turco features Jack Johnson.  If anyone knows about these or can send me a link to some info, I would appreciate it.  I can't honestly believe that these were printed in error.

So that's it for the new additions to the collection for this years releases.  You may have noticed that there are a few issued sets missing from this list.  Famous Fabrics Inks is one that comes to mind.  I have no intention of purchasing a product that features 1 card for $100.  Even if I knew what the card was, I wouldn't buy one card for $100.  That's just insane.  Another set is ITG's Ultimate Memorabilia set.  I love ITG's releases but this one will set you back about $550 for 15 cards.  Again, why?  I don't want to be hosed with a $5 card that I paid $100 for.  Panini Limited is out there.  1 pack, 7 cards for about $70.  Considering their train wreck so far with releases, you would have to be smoking something illegal in all star systems to risk that.  So for now, I'm biding my time until ITG puts out Heroes & Prospects, whatever Retro set they are working on (if any), and Between the Pipes.  I also will pick up Series II Upper Deck and probably scold myself 100x's over after the fact but still pick up SP, SP Game Used, or SPx (or all three).  Oh, and let's not forget the return of Pinnacle and Crown Royale (Panini, you better not screw these up). 

And with that, I bid you all adieu.  Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Last Post Before 2011 - - A Review Of My 2010-11 Hockey Experience

I have been posting quite a bit more on the Garage lately because of all the weird cards I have been finding.  Soccer cards, Johnny Mize HOF cards, some of the first custom cards of all time, and some crazy holograms have all been discussed.  But, what about my normal collection?  Just because I have half the free world's worth of cards in my garage doesn't mean I haven't been working on my own collection.

I don't have a whole lot to post as far as pictures go.  In fact, I have none.  I was going to take the time to scan in a bunch of my cool pulls from this year's hockey releases thus far but what is the saying...the road to failure is paved with good intentions?  That's me.  Actually, nothing has really gotten me that excited to be honest.  But again, that's not to say that I am not doing my part for the hobby.

Victory was first this year.  It's always first.  It's also the cheapest...well until Choice comes out.  Victory was a quick build.  It is a 200 card base set and I was able to put this together fairly quickly.  I still need a few rookies but my rack pack theory worked out for me on this one.  It helps when you pull the packs from the same box too, so no doubles.  But no one cares about Victory.  They are cheap, boring, and fail to live up to any hype other than being the first release of the new year.  In fact, they aren't "real" cards in the minds of many and are simply ignored by half the collecting public.  I like them though.  My favorites were the Red Parallel version available in rack packs.  They look nice in an album. 

The first "real" packs of the year were Certified.  I'll be honest, I wasn't a fan when I saw the previews but I had to have something new.  I picked these up right after the big acquisition so I was a little spent.  There was a deal so I took it.  Fortunately (unfortunately) for me, I busted a "hot box".  I am a set collector so this kind of sucked since, as most of you know, a hot box is basically all parallel cards.  I got a few decent cards, a redemptions for a Cal Clutterbuck auto, a couple nobodies sigs, and a few GU cards including an Ovechkin I could have done without.  Overall, I think the set didn't shy too far away from their football releases and thus, was a bit boring for me, despite the hot box.  My LCS dealer was nice enough to give me a pile of base that another "HIT ONLY" customer left behind. burned me once.

Up next was Score.  I really liked these when I first saw them.  I really, really did.  But after two Hobby (actually I don't think there is a difference) boxes, a few rack packs, two blasters, and a few loose packs, I am not a fan.  First problem was the fact that the redemptions that were promised as part of the sell sheet were missing.  After contacting Panini, their excuse was that they pulled them all at the last minute in favor of inserting the players that were available into packs.  Of course these were short printed so they fall only 1 or 2 per case.  You do the math.  Not happy with their customer support as they offered up the typical "that's only a guide and not a guarantee of collation" answer.

As a set builder, you would think I was well on my way to a complete set.  Well you would be wrong.  In fact, at this point, I think I have more doubles than I do toward my set.  Good Grief!  I think I need a couple hundred cards still.  In the two boxes I opened from my LCS, half the second box was dupes of the first.  Don't even get me started on the "glossy" vs. regular cards that you have to tilt at a 45 degree angle to tell what set it comes from.  I know it is supposed to be a low end product but come one, Panini!  As far as I'm concerned, you burned me twice.

Oh, but you wouldn't fail me, Upper Deck, would you?  The flagship Upper Deck set has been in my collection since the beginning.  I have most of them, have parts of others, and vow to complete the chronological history of Upper Deck base in hockey one time in the near future.  Each year, the Upper Deck set is the pinnacle of the hobby when it comes to quality of design, value, and variety.  So would this year disappoint?  Well, I went with my rack pack theory once again, only this time it backfired.  I picked up half from one box and another portion from another and I believe a couple from a third.  Sure enough, I ended up with quite a few doubles, even some triples, in fact 1 quadruple.  I'm 43 from a 200 card base set and even farther from the Young Guns as they seemed to be few and far between.  I am still happy with the set.  I love the retro parallels that hearken back to the days of 1990-91 when Upper Deck was the new kid on the block.  My only criticism is they are on a much more flimsy card stock than the base cards.  So we have one winner in my book.  One out of four.  Not good.  (Although Victory is a "you know what you are getting" set so maybe one out of three is a better ratio).

Since my head hurts, I'm sick, falling asleep, and relishing in the fact that the Eagles are getting beat by a horrible Vikings team, I will continue this little rant later with my foray into Black Diamond, Artifacts, and O-Pee-Chee.

To Be Continued....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Streak Is Over

I knew it wasn't going to last forever but I was hoping at least until Christmas.  In case you were wondering, the Philadelphia F@#ers beat the Pens 3-2, snapping a 12 game win streak.  On a positive note, Crosby kept his 19 game point-scoring streak alive with 2 assists.  Geno, who had missed four games with a knee problem, made his presence known by putting in his 9th and 10th of the season. 
The disturbing part for me though was that the Flyers outshot the Pens 37-23 and have now beat Pittsburgh 3 times this year.  I can't stand it when there is a team that dominates the Pens for a season (see the Devils last year).  With all their talent, there is no way that should happen...EVER!

Oh, and by the way...That IS!!!! Goalie Interference despite the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] announcers.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Winter Classic Just Got An Upgrade

For the last few years, the NHL's Winter Classic has featured some exciting hockey.  Not just because of the games themselves but because of the allure of playing outdoors in a stadium not necessarily equipped for hockey, in an environment that most of these players grew up learning the game they love.  There has been something magical about it that, if you are hockey fan, I think you will agree has sparked some momentum for a resurgence in the sports popularity. 

Another reason for my excitement is the fact that this years game is being played at Heinz Field between the Penguins and the arch-rival Washington Capitals.  Well the game just got more interesting.  The NHL announced that there will be an Old-Timers game.  Not just any old timers game however...this one is going to feature perhaps the best Penguins team ever assembled. 

If I was going to put this team together I can think of a few players I'd include.  For starters, no Pens team would be complete without Mario Lemieux.  They got him, of course.  I think I'd also add the likes of Ron Francis and Paul Coffey.  Shockingly enough, they got them, too.  Both of them.  Bryan Trottier, even though he only spent a couple years on the Pens, would have to be there since he was a pivotal member on a Stanley up winning team.  Well, they got him too. 

As for the rest of the lineup, it is left to be seen.  We do know that despite his recent retirement from hockey, Billy G will suit up in a Pens uniform once more.  Guerin will most certainly get a standing ovation when he takes to the ice.  I'm still waiting to see number 68 take to the ice.  Pipe dream, I know.  Although if he did, I wonder which team he would suit up for.  Either way, the fans would boo him so I guess it doesn't matter. 

The Capitals have only announced their captain, Peter Bondra.  Not too shabby.  I can't wait to see who else they choose.  Maybe Olie Kolzig, or Dale Hunter?  Possibly Brian Engblom will come out of the analyst booth.  Rod Langway, Mike Gartner, Kelly Miller...?  Who knows?

The best part about all of this...$25 bucks gets you a ticket and you get to watch the Pens practice as well.  I wish I still lived in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Absurdity Inspired By dayf

I read on one of Cardboard Junkie's posts about some absurdity in the TMCG trading zone.  It seems he keeps getting ridiculous offers of junk wax for vintage.  Well, this prompted me to check mine.  Afterall, I have been out of commission for awhile so it has been a few months since I logged into either the TMCG site or the Gridiron equivalent.  I know, I know.  The offers go away if you ignore them so I probably missed my chance to trade a 1988 Brian Bosworth for a 1984 Dan Marino rookie.  I just thought it would be fun to share.

Here are some of the awesome deals that awaited me.  First on the Gridiron Giveaway site...

I can either go with Gene Washington (78) or Jim Mitchell (72) for my 1957 Clyde Conner.  Now, Conner was no big name player and neither are either of these guys but a 57 for either a 72 or 78?  Please.  Although, I think Gene Washington guest starred as a dead guy on "The Mod Squad" once.

Next we have a 1979 Pat Leahy offered up for my 1959 Joe Fortunato rookie card.  Let's see...Fortunato was named to the Pro Bowl 5 times and NFL All-Pro 3 times.  Joe was a member of one of the greatest linebacking groups in NFL history, teaming up with Larry Morris and Bill George, who played together in the 1963 NFL Championship season and helped give staying power to the nickname "Monsters Of the Midway". Fortunato was also named as one of the 300 best NFL players of all time. 

But Pat Leahy!  Well I'll give him the benefit of the doubt as he is the Jets all-time leading scorer.  But did I mention he is a kicker?  I know the Fortunato will only get me a buck or two but it's the principle here people.  Geez!

So I headed over to the Topps Million Card Giveaway site.  Here is what I found.  Let's take one card as an example.
The Subject:

1972 Topps Steve Mingori

I'm not going to pretend that I know who this is and start rattling stats off from his career as a left-handed middle reliever for the Kansas City Royals.  I'm not.  But it's a 1972 card that looks pretty cool and it was printed before I was born so it has some clout in my book.

Here is what awaited me in trade...

2001 Ivan Rodriquez - Not a horrible card but for a 1972?

1984 Broderick Perkins - Seriously, without looking it up...who the hell is this guy?

1988 Mike Aldrete - If Topps took all the 1987-1991 cards they have and burned them all, there would still be too many out there.  Which gives me an idea for a stunt that will most certainly be done to some Card Garage inventory once the winter winds subside.

1979 Steve Mingori - Well at least this person made an effort

 1974 Pepe Frias - The name on the front of his card is just a nickname.  His real name...Jesús María Frías Andújar.  Yeah, I'd go with Pepe, too.

So there you have it.  I have other offers too but none of them are as interesting as this.  I will admit that I am guilty of the same thing sometimes.  But, in my defense, I try to offer up a multitude of junk for a card I like rather than a one-for-one swap.  It's only the courteous thing to do.  I still can't figure out why, other than from Play At the Plate, I have never been offered any Pirates cards?  Are there that many Pirates fans that want to hang onto their TMCG cards from the Buccos?  I see in Dayf's rant, he got offered Oliver Perez, Jerry Reuss, and Bob Robertson all as Pirates.  I guess Steve Mingori is not worthy of any Pirate cards.

Monday, December 6, 2010

For Your Viewing Pleasure

I give to you the Top 100 Sports Pictures of 2010.  This isn't my collection.  I didn't vote for these.  But, nonetheless, many of them are really cool.

Depending on your internet connection, you may need to give it a few minutes to load.  But it's worth it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spending Time In The Garage

I decided to start logging my journey of owning the colossally huge collection that now sits in my garage.  For those that don't know, I am in possession of the inventory of a couple old brick and mortar card shops that went under.  Without going into too many details, my intentions are to more than likely unload the majority of the collection but "spruce" up my own in the process.  I'm keeping this blog free from those dealing (at least I think so).  Which is why I created The Card Garage.  This is where I will post some of the interesting things I find, as well as links to the stuff up for sale, up for trade, or up for campfire kindling. Check it out if you want.  It will most definitely be a work in progress.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Observe & Report

The best part about blogging is the fact that it is self-regulated.  If you have something to say, you can say it.  If you have nothing to say, you don't have to trump something up.  If you don't have time to blog, you don't have to. 

That's kind of where I have been lately.  A couple weeks ago while driving to work in the morning, I was rear ended while sitting at an intersection.  My truck was recommended to be undriveable by the tow company that arrived at the scene and even the police officer that responded to the accident said I better hold off.  I was taken to the hospital with a head injury as my seat belt failed to catch and my head ricocheted off the steering wheel.  Airbags?  Well 9 times out of 10, they don't deploy in a rear end collision so there you have it.

After being checked out, there were no neck or back injuries.  The only issue was the fact my eye was slashed open and my vision had yet to return.  I was sent to a specialist and now have a bunch of follow ups to figure out if my vision will return.  My truck has still not been returned and I have been in a rental since then.  As for insurance, it will all be taken care of by the guy who hit me and I am not worried about it so other than the vision thing, which is improving, all is well.

Speaking of all things being well, that brings me to my next point.  The "million card giveaway" that I recently came into contact with is now a reality.  The price was cut in half and some additional incentives were added to the pot so I was cornered into a position where I really had no option.  I took the plunge and am now slowly taking possession of the collection.  It probably would have only taken 2-3 trips with my truck, but I think I have already covered that.  The rental car they gave me is a small, compact car that holds maybe a couple dozen monster boxes. 

But the issue I am dealing with at this point is space.  I have none.  The boxes have all taken up residence in my garage for the time being until I have some time and energy to start going through them.  I have gone through quite a few and found some great stuff which I am sure I will talk about later on, but in the grand scheme of things, I haven't even dented what is out there. 

My goal here is to make my cash back as quickly as I can and then use the rest to fill some sets, round out some collections, and maybe start making some trades for some stuff in my PC.  I have been trying to figure out the best way to do this.  I have looked at COMC, Ebay, Sportlots, and Sportsbuy.  I am still torn with what to do.  While COMC does most of the work, there is a big front end cost and an even bigger penalty for cashout at the end.  Ebay, as we all know, is full of fees and craziness, plus chances are you are only going to get 10-20% of what you want.  Although the odds of selling the items are pretty good.  Sportlots looks interesting but it seems more focused on common cards for set builders.  Sportsbuy, or NAXCOM as most people remember, seems to be a pretty good option for now but I am just not sure on the amount of people that see this on a daily basis. 

Any advice from the peanut gallery?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What If Scenario #17

Ever made a bucket list?  I never have put it on paper but there have always been a few things in my head that I wouldn't mind doing before I'm gone.  Besides, seeing my kids grow up and have their own families one day, I'm talking about more materialistic things.  Like stuff you want to do, see, or accomplish.  One of mine was always to own a huge collection and run a shop.  I think about it sometimes and always play out stuff I would do different from what I see being done around me.  It is probably a pipe-dream that will never occur but it is a fun game.  So let's play another what if scenario out here for fun, shall we?

A local card dealer decides to unload another dealer's inventory they acquired some months ago.  The stuff that was acquired seemed like a good idea for an investment at the time but it is causing all sorts of issues with space constraints, not to mention asthetics.  There aren't enough hours in the business day to deal with sorting, listing, pricing, etc. when it is a one man operation.  Business was great back in the junk wax years and everyone was happy.  Stuff moved quick and a collection like this would move in no time.  Then came the late 90s and the wheels fell off.  Fast forward 10 years and here we are.

In walks an everyday-Joe kind of collector and sees a chin high stack of boxes that stretches 5' x 12' through the back of the shop.  "What's going on", the unsuspecting patron inquires? 

"This stuff has got to go.  It has been sitting here for too long and I am tired of looking at it," says the shop owner.

"Are you selling this by the box, or singles, or what", asks the curious shopper?

"The whole lot of it...together", exclaims the dealer.  "Why?  Do you know someone that's interested?"

"Yeah, me", you think to yourself.  So here is the deal.  You can ask a billion and one questions about this lot but make no mistake...there are approximately 1,000,000 cards in this pile.  This lot has been looked through many times by the owner but since about 2003, has sat virtually untouched with the exception of adding more boxes to it.  Sure they aren't all Mickey Mantle/Wayne Gretzky/Michael Jordan/[insert name here] rookie cards but you have to imagine there are at least a few thousand major acquisitions in the mix.  Odds are, there has to be. 

"What do you want for it," the confused collector inquires.

"Well, I have it listed at auction for $4000 right now.  A guy from [insert State] called two days ago about making a swap for part cash/part memorabilia.  I have had about 8 offers so far since posting it but nothing has really gotten me to bite."

"So you want $4000 for it?" I asked...I mean, the collector asks. 

"Well, tell you what.  If you are interested, I'll make it worth your while..." 

Peering through a few of the boxes uncovers tons of stars and semi-stars from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s in all sports (even golf, boxing, tennis, and water polo...water polo!!??).  There are even at least 100 graded cards in a box that include autographs, game-used, and some rookies (including an AP rookie [not Topps]graded 9.5, a Troy Aikman GU, a John Riggins rookie, and a Magic Johnson autograph, to name a few).  There are sets galore, ranging from the early 1980s all the way to today (a few visible on top include the 1982 Fleer baseball, 1984-1993 Topps baseball, 1981 Donruss baseball, and 1984-85 Topps hockey).  There are even ten or so boxes (as in 2'x2' UHaul style boxes) filed with unopened wax, retail promotional stuff, and other sports related collectibles.

The devil on the shoulder tells you to make an offer.  He says you have to.  He says you will never have an opportunity like this again.  He says you'll eventually be able to open up that business you've always wanted with minimal inventory constraints.  He says you can start to deal online on a regular basis and make some money doing what you love.  The angel on the other shoulder is supposed to come out next and be the contrarian however he may have gotten lost on the way to work so for now it's just you and the devil.  So the gears in the head begin to turn.  In the meantime, you see a Walter Payton rookie, not in the best condition, but 4 sharp corners and it looks great.  Two boxes later you find both a Dan Marino and a John Elway rookie.

If money isn't one of the major issues, do you do it?  Notice I didn't say money was no object because it is, but thinking of your own situation, what do you offer?  Compare your ideal buying price to what you spend in a year...two years...three years, on cards.  How do you make it work from a logistical standpoint?  What would be the deal breaker, one way or the other?  Could you store this many cards in one place?  How to you begin to organize these for sale? 

Keep in mind here that if you have never seen 1,000,000 cards, you probably have no ability to understand what this looks like.  I would advise you not to even try because it is bigger than whatever image you think.  I would have taken a picture but seeing as this is hypothetical, I had no camera available at the time I imagined it.

Regardless of all that, I want to hear from readers out there.  What Would You Do?

(Again, all this is hypothetical and I am just asking for research purposes...yeah, that's it, research.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

We Are Family...You Just Aren't In It Anymore

John Russell = FIRED

I'm happy with it.  Not because he is now gone but because they are moving on from a bad situation.  I don't blame Russell for the Pirates season.  It was going to result in this anyway whether it was 70 loses, 90 loses, or 105.  He joined a sinking ship with almost zero chance of righting itself during his tenure and is basically just a victim of circumstance.  My blame goes higher.  I would be happier if they would keep going up the totem pole with the pink slips, like maybe the GM Neal Huntington.  Or maybe team president Frank Coonelly.  Or how about the owner, Bob Nutting.  Can you even fire an owner?

Instead, Huntington made the official announcement, meaning that he, himself still has a job for now.  He said,

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for JR, both personally and professionally.  He took on a difficult challenge, overseeing a major overhaul in the makeup of our team." 

Really?  What was that overhaul?  Dump all your talent?  Put a hiring freeze on quality ball players?  Pay people?  It certainly wasn't a change in attitude toward a committment to winning ball games. 

My favorite quote came when he said,

"...In the end, we decided that new leadership in the clubhouse would give us the best opportunity to move this major league team forward." 

Not "move this team" forward", or "move the Pirates forward".  He said "move this major league team forward", indicating that the rest of America (and the Universe, for that matter) have all forgotten that the Bucs were actually in Major League baseball and weren't just a farm team that occasionally showed up on gameday. 

I don't know about the rest of the baseball fans out there but I'm glad the lights are shut off in PNC Park for another year.  My return to actively following my team after a long hiatus was nothing more than a dismal failure and an eye opener to many of the things that are wrong with baseball.  Perhaps next year I will think before getting excited over America's Pasttime because it's way past time for the Pirates to stop losing.

Mr. Comrie + Mr. Malkin = Mr. Win

In lieu of my normal Random Steeler Monday, I decided for a more subtle and less card related rant. 

It might be a he, or it could be a she.  I don't really know, nor do I really care to find out.  But the fact that it was said questions the integrity of the source, in my opinion.

I was reading some recaps of the weekend hockey games in preparation for my fantasy hockey draft tonight.  I happened upon the recap of the Penguins 5-2 win over the Red Wings yesterday.  I know it is still preseason but anytime a Pens team (especially a banged up one) can take the ice and out score, out goaltend, and out hustle a Red Wings team (predominantly the A squad), it makes for some great hockey.  (Queue the Wings fans flaming emails...I predict at least 10 before noon). 

In the final preseason game, coach Dan Bylsma was once again tweaking the line pairings in preparation for the season.  He put Mike Comrie on the line with Evgeni Malkin and it was almost slightly magical.  Comrie tallied two goals and Malkin had one and three helpers.  That line worked together like a fine oiled machine.  I went back and watched the rebroadcast online and I was quite impressed by what I saw from the two of them, especially considering the Pens were without Sid, Staal, Asham, or Orpik.

All I can say about it is this...if that is indicative of the kind of play we are going to see from the hockey-smart, 10 year veteran Comrie, I'm sold.  Plus, he is only collecting the league minimum $500,000.  That, my friends, is complete insanity!!  I just hope he can keep it up for a whole season and not put on his trademark 3 month offensive clinic followed by his 6 month hybernation period.

But here is what I wanted to point out about this little recap from the AP.  About half way through the article, there is a statement that goes like this...

"Comrie, who married actress Hilary Duff this summer, said he fits well with the Penguins."


Are you kidding me?

They couldn't just say, "Comrie, who is beginning his 10th year in the NHL"  or "Comrie, who came to the Penguins in a free agent signing this summer" or "Comrie, the other white meat"?  No, they had to say he married Hilary this summer. 

Much to everyone's surprise, I'm not a writer.  I don't work for a news organization.  I'm not a credit worthy author or sports commentator.  But, you have to joking when you make some half-assed attempt at trying to connect some kind of pop-culture reference that ties hockey to the mainstream.  That is bush-league, isn't it?  That is borderline tabloid reporting, isn't it?  This is an author that says, "well no real hockey fans will read this article so since no one outside of that realm knows Mike Comrie, mentioning Hilary Duff will get me the web hits I need to keep my job".  I'm only asking these questions because I am not privy to the unwritten rules of sports writing, if there are any.  If it is fair game, then I apologize.  But something tells me, it was just stupid.
I need to go look at my new prize to help calm me down after reading that article.  Who are these nameless AP writer's anyway?  Did they come from TMZ?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Megatron, aka: Calvin Johnson Artist Sketch

2010 Topps Calvin Johnson Artist Sketch by Brian Kong 1/1

Everyone says that if you open wax long enough, one day odds are you will pull a 1/1.  Today was my day!!  This is an Artist Sketch card from the 2010 Topps Football release.  These cards are seeded at 1:1710 packs.  I'm not sure if that means hobby packs, HTA packs, or the entire print run of hobby packs.  Either way, we can assume this is a pretty rare card (something in the realm of 1 per 20-30 cases).  Not bad for my first 1/1.  And, I'm now immortalized in my LCS's "Best Pull" book.

I'm still not sure yet what it's intended purpose will be.  I'm not ready to stop basking in it's glory yet.

A Sense of Accomplishment

I finally finished half a set this week.  The 2008-09 Upper Deck Hockey Series I base set is now complete after the final 6 cards fell into my mitts.  How you ask when I wasn't acquiring anything new?  My son and his blooming collection, that's how. 

My wife will occasionally allow my son to pick up some cards when they are at the store.  I guess Target had some 08-09 UD Hockey Series I rack packs on clearance.  He was allowed to get 2 and brought them home, very excited.  After watching him open them, and repeatedly jump up and down after getting a player he "liked", I recognized at least two I needed.  So the gears of the trade machine began turning. 

It's weird trading with your son because you get that feeling that you don't want to rip them off and want to be fair yet deep down you know "his" cards are really "your" cards.  Afterall, you are the one with the job and paycheck.  It was your money that bought the cards.  You should just be able to take the ones you want and he just has to suck it up.  But I digress...He got a good deal.  I get 6 base cards I need and he got a couple dozen cards of players he actually recognizes and can pronounce their names.

I love when I complete sets.  It makes me happy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

2010 Topps Football - - My first packs

Now that the 2010 Topps Football has permeated it's way through all the store shelves and all the blogs, I decided enough was enough and I wasn't about to get left behind.  I finally took a stab at a few packs.

I decided about a year or so ago that since I build sets and I need the most bang for my buck, retail shelf rack packs were always my best bet.  Some argue that these are the worst because the odds are different for the "hits" but you get the most for your money out of these packs because of the sheer number of cards and price per card.

Feel free to disagree as I know many of you will but when you have very little access to a card shop and means out of my own control preventing ordering hobby boxes online, retail is sometimes your only option.  Since I can't bring myself to trust loose packs on the shelf or those nifty gravity boxes because of all the pack searchers, I keep returning to the rack packs.  Sure, blaster boxes can get you some guaranteed hits as well as some increasingly fair collation over the last few years.  But the cost per card is higher than a rack pack and I'm really not interested in anymore of these "hits" that contain plain white swatches of bench players (regardless of sport) or prospect autographs of guys that will never get off their minor league islands.

Did I mention I picked up a few packs?  Well I did.  10 to be exact.  At $4.99 a pop, that was a nice piece of change until I realized all the trading cards were an additional 30% off.  Sweet, $3.50 a pack!!  There were only 10 or else I would have picked up a few more.  At any rate, I'll get this out of the way real quick...there were no autos, no game used, no super short prints, and no rookie variations.  Instead there were tons of base cards that put me well on my way to putting the set together, 10 Gridiron Lineage cards, 10 Topps Attaks/Toppstown cards, 10 Peak Performances, 2 Topps Gold /2010, 3 75th Anniversary Draft cards, 10 '52 Bowman reprints, and 2 55th Anniversary reprints.  Plus, out of 10 packs, I pulled 7 Gridiron Giveaway cards.

These are what I wanted to focus on because everyone out there has already seen the base and the inserts a hundred times.  Not being one to allow anything to sit more than 10 minutes, I immediately logged into the TGG site, surprisingly using my same ID and PW for the TMCG site.  I checked their "transmogrifier" for any recent trends in new vs. old and noticed it was a pretty even mix so I figured why not?  Here they are in no particular order...

1988 Jim Covert

2006 Doug Gabriel

1979 Lenvil Elliott

1979 Raymond Clayborn

1959 Joe Fortunato (R)

1984 Garry Cobb

1999 Travis Hall

This was a pretty interesting mix.  Better variety than the over-abundance of 1985-1989 on it's baseball counterpart.  I unlocked 2 cards from the 70s, 2 from the 80s, 1 from the 90s, 1 from the 2000s, and my one and only card from the 50s that I own that isn't a Pittsburgh Steeler.  Joe Fortunado's rookie card, as it appears to be, is probably still a common by all other standards but since I live in the Chicago area, he's at least a guy I have heard of.  Playing 12 seasons for the Bears, he made the Pro Bowl 5 times and is considered one of the top 300 players of all time.  He was named to the All Decade team of the 50s.  

I have already sorted my base cards but I haven't made a list of what I need yet.  That will go to my set needs page as soon as I have an opportunity.  I also pulled a small pile of doubles and a few triples surprisingly so if anyone else is putting this together, let me know.

I know, I know.  I said I wasn't picking up anything new for awhile a few posts ago but the urge to bust wax overcame me and I caved.  It won't happen

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Pirates Futility Never Ceases To Amaze

[UPDATE:  In the aftermath of this ridiculous firing and the huge backlash from what fan base is left after constant alienation by the franchise, the Pirates are taking the stance that it was for Walbeck's own good because if his talents were going to be utilized to their fullest, there were no positions higher up available with the Bucs organization.  Basically, they were letting him spread his wings and fly away for a better opportunity.  I still call BS but what do I know.]

After posting my elation over securing the #1 pick in next years draft (with a win, nonetheless), it was revealed yesterday that Pirates management has lost their freakin' minds.  It's always two steps forward, a hundred steps back with this club and I don't know why I am surprised.  I also don't know why I bother paying attention anymore when all it does is anger me.

The announcement was that the Pirates club won't be renewing the contract of Altoona manager Matt Walbeck.  Now most of you might be saying, "So what. He's only a Class AA manager."  Well this guy has one of the best reputations as a manager in AA ball and is considered by many to be a candidate for a future job with the MLB team.  Plus, there's the little thing of, oh, winning the Eastern League championship this year.  Or, maybe his fate was sealed by being named the Eastern League Manager Of The Year.

Walbeck's resume now includes 3 league titles and 4 manager of the year awards in the last six seasons, including this last championship which was the first for the Altoona Curve.  That is an accomplishment worth celebrating isn't it?  Do you fire a guy that wins titles?  Do you fire the guy deemed as the best coach in the league?  You do if you are the Pirates.  No one knows the reason for his dismissal and nothing but speculation is available at this point.  Pirates farm team director, Kyle Stark, wouldn't return phone calls from the press asking for an explanation but would only comment over text message that, "We do not comment on internal personnel decisions.  We appreciate Matt's efforts and wish him the best, but felt like it was best to allow him to pursue other opportunities." 

Walbeck has said in the past that he had aspirations to move up and felt he was ready for a job in a higher league.  I'm sure he would welcome the opportunity to go to another league or even, dare I say, a bench job in MLB?  Either way I think his successes will carry along with him. 

So here's my take...The Pirates just made themselves look even worse, if that was humanly possible.  Your franchise has been losing for 18 years straight.  It was just recently revealed that despite the lack of a committment to win you are still profitting.  Your reputation in MLB is that of the leagues "farm" system where they can go and at any time, pick the players they need that you have spent the time and money to develop. 

Walbeck is an asset to an organization committed to winning because that is what he does.  He is also an excellent manager for a minor league team because he understands the process involved in player development better than most.  He has been in the business for almost 20 years and that experience has paid off with championships and individual accolades beyond what most managers dream of. 

This proves that he is obviously not a good fit for the Pirates.  He is a scourge to their mindframe.  He is a positive disease in thier negative environment.  The boat the Pirates have been sailing for years is being rocked by a man devoted to winning and their ingrained expectations of flying under the radar, residing in the basement of baseball and keeping money in the organization and not on the payroll are contrary to his philosophy.  To them, it would seem that Walbeck is a bad fit because he isn't towing the company line and committment to misery.  Maybe he should have been like John Russell.  A 56-102 record gets you a contract extension. 

This move is just another in a long line of losing moments.  There has to be a lot of hard work and effort that goes into it because it can't be easy losing over 100 games in a season.  But, that's what the Pirates do best.  People wonder why I don't freely admit to being a Pirates fan.  I go out of my way sometimes just to not watch them when they are on TV because I know I will just be disappointed.  At least Cubs fans can cling to the "maybe next year" mantra they have become linked with.  A better creed for the Pirates should be "not in my lifetime".

Commence response to Epic Failure!!