Monday, June 30, 2014

Final June Reminder...

I just wanted to give one last reminder for those not yet following my other blog, the Horizontal Card Challenge, that with June ending, winners are about to be chosen and new challenges issued in July.

Voting for the Angels will end around noon-ish on July 1st. Around the same time on July 2nd, voting will end for the Astros, etc. Just leave a comment on which card you think is better.

Thanks for the support!

Mark Prior Monday - 2005 Fleer Authentix

I try to write my posts a day or to in advance and schedule them for noon on the given day. If everything works out the way it was supposed to with my trip, this will be my last post that I wrote a full week in advance. Tomorrow, I should have highlights and details.

I've said it before that even though I was still following the Cubs in the early-mid 2000's, those years make up a big gap in my collecting history. One of reasons I chose to do Mark Prior Monday (aside from just picking up the huge Prior lot) was that it forces me to learn more about these sets.

2005 Fleer Authentix #69 Mark Prior

This set, 2005 Fleer Authentix seemed kind of neat if not gimmicky. You have a faux ticket along the bottom that includes all of the pertinent information about the player. There's a color action photo with a black and white or sepia background. It's kind of hard to tell from this scan and I've already filed the card away. I kind of like it, although as much as I get on Topps for their tight cropping, I could see this one done a little tighter.

I'm not sure I like the diagonal across the back but at least it's different.

The set consists of 125 cards and has a couple of parallel versions. The Club Box set is limited to 50 copies and is green on the front where this card is red/maroon. It also says Club Box underneath the team name. The General Admission parallel is numbered to 100 is orange-ish and says General Admission under the team name. I wish all parallels were as clearly labeled when I'm going back through to figure out which cards are which.

The Cubs had three other cards in the set with Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and Nomar Garciaparra.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Where Are They Now? 2011 Pro Debut Part 3

Last year I began a new series of posts giving an update on Cubs prospects that appeared in Pro Debut during its inaugural 2010 season. Three years seemed like a pretty good amount of time to follow up. With the release of the 2014 set, I restarted the series two Sundays ago with players from 2011.

So far, none of the first four are even still with the Cubs franchise let alone progressing to play at Wrigley Field. Those previous entries can be seen here:

Part 1 (Hak-Ju Lee and Brandon Guyer) can be seen here.

Part 2 (Reggie Golden and Hunter Ackerman) can be seen here.

2011 Topps Pro Debut #304 Aaron Kurcz
The Cubs drafted Aaron Kurcz out of the College of Southern Nevada in the 11th Round of the 2010 draft. He was a decent reliever prior to the Daytona Cubs moving him into the rotation, but with that conversion, he made the Florida State League mid-season All-star team in 2011.

However, Kurcz fits the same bill as the first four in that he is no longer with the Cubs. What sets him apart though is that he was traded…for Theo Epstein. Kind of. He was a “player to be named later” after it was determined the Cubs needed to further compensate the Red Sox for the hire.

Kurcz spent the 2012 season with the Red Sox’s Double A affiliate the Portland Sea Dogs where he returned to the bullpen. He lost the second half of the season and all of 2013 to Tommy John surgery. He’s bounced back this season, finishing out 12 games (in 17 appearances) for the Sea Dogs.

2011 Topps Pro Debut #306 Austin Reed
Once I sifted through Austin Reed, the British clothing company and Austin Reed, the fictional character from Days of Our Lives, I finally got to Austin Reed, Addison’s little brother the Cubs 12th round 2010 draft selection. Yes, he is White Sox closer, Addison Reed’s little brother and they were drafted on the same day, into the same city, nine rounds apart.

Austin is still with the Cubs and has progressed each season, advancing to a new level but hasn't managed to catch up to his brother yet. Addison is three years older so it’s a little understandable. It would be fun to see these brothers duel it out in a crosstown interleague game in the near future.

It probably doesn't help that his current team the Daytona Cubs has a record about as good as their Major League counterpart. All of those highly touted Cubs prospects are bunching up in Double A and Triple A.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014 Topps Factory Team Set - Yankees

For the past couple of Saturdays I've been breaking down the 2014 Factory Team Sets (FTS) by taking a look at how they compare with the team sets released in Series One and Opening Day. Now that Series 2 has been released as well, I could probably throw them into the mix but for the sake of continuity, I won’t. Maybe next year.

Last week, I did the Braves and mentioned how there was a lack of variety among the sets (only 18 different players were used). The Yankees come in on the opposite end of that spectrum (no surprise there, Topps) with 24.

There were so many different groupings that I actually Venn diagrammed these out to keep track, so I’m going to present them a little bit differently than I have previous team sets.

Five cards were just in Series One.

Boone Logan, Vernon Wells, Zoilo Almonte

Boone Logan spent four seasons with the Yankees so he would seem like a safe bet to include but was granted agency and signed with the Colorado Rockies in the off season. Vernon Wells was released by the Yankees in January and has yet to find a team for 2014. I don’t even know if he’s looking, so this might be a sunset card for the former Gold Glovin’, Silver Sluggin’ All-Star. Zoilo Almonte is part of the Yankees 40-man roster but is currently with their Triple A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

J.R. Murphy

JR Murphy made his debut last September and caught a bunch of games to finish out the season. Since the Yankees have to be represented at every position, he was Topps’ pick for catcher in Series One.

Mariano Rivera

The omission of this particular Mariano Rivera card makes sense as it was a highlights/tribute card.

No cards showed up only in Opening Day. If they were in Opening Day, they were either included with Series One and/or the FTS. Two cards from Series One made the Opening Day checklist but not the FTS.

Mariano Rivera

This is a great card. Its inclusion in Series One makes for a great final tribute. The decision to include it in Opening Day is a little questionable since it was well known that Rivera wouldn't actually be around to play on Opening Day. But that logic comes from the same company that puts out Pro Debut cards of guys two or three years into their pro career. But at least they had the forethought to not include him in the 2014 FTS.

Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod was another smart omission from the team set. He played last year, so he had stats to include on a 2014 card. Fine. I’ll be curious (not really) to see whether or not he gets a 2015 card after being suspended for this entire year.

One card showed up in Series One that didn’t make the cut for Opening Day but showed up in the FTS.

Eduardo Nunez

Eduardo Nunez played the bulk of the games at shortstop in place of the injured Derek Jeter last season. He was traded in early April to the Minnesota Twins, too late to be taken out of the FTS.

We got to see five new Yankees cards with the release of Opening Day that were also included in the FTS. As much I feel like I don’t need any more Yankees cards, I guess the inclusion of these next five guys as a preview of Series Two was a no-brainer.

CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira

CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira are fairly long term Yankees with 8 All-Star appearances between them, among other accolades.

Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury

Landing any one of these three big off season acquisitions would have been a small coup for just about any other team. All three? That’s the Yankee way.

These next four guys must be the “Core Four” I always here about because they appeared in all three issues thus far. (I kid)

Hiroki Kuroda, Derek Jeter

Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano

If there was going to be four that appeared in all of them, Jeter and Jeter were good bets to be among them. But I would have thought Sabathia would be one and Ichiro would be another.

(Spoiler alert: Ichiro didn’t make any of the sets?! Anybody know what’s up with that? I didn't even see him on the Series 2 checklist…)

So there you have it. Seventeen different Yankees cards. Wait, what? There’s still seven more cards from the Factory set that haven’t been shown yet??? Fine.

Ivan Nova, Kelly Johnson, Michael Pineda

David Robertson, Brian Roberts

David Phelps

Yankee Stadium

Thank goodness the Yankees don’t have a mascot, too!

For fun, here's the shoddy Venn diagram I mentioned:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Whoops and Some Pimpage

During my break from driving on Thursday, I was browsing blogger on my phone and accidentally deleted my Ivy Collection post I had scheduled for today. Meanwhile, I'm in Indiana and my backup is on my home computer in Virginia. Whoops.

Now that I'm in the hotel, I'm a bit tired to write something new. So in lieu of today's post, please take a few minutes to check out P-Town Tom's Group Break. Super cheap with lots of good teams with rich histories left. Thanks!

And if you have a few more minutes this weekend, please take a look at the Horizontal Card Challenge as well. I'm into the final few teams of the first round and by the time I'm back from my trip, it'll be time to declare winners and issue new challenges. There are a couple of match ups with ties so a few more votes wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How'd That Get There?! Part 4

With great big thanks to Paul from over at Wrigley Wax, I have been slowly but surely compiling my Cubs Haves and Want Lists based upon his personal collection checklist. You know, the one he uses to generate his 5 Random Cubs Cards on Sundays. Not only is his collection a dream, but his organizational skills are fantastic as well.

There are quite a few of his older posts that I have bookmarked and frequently reference. If Paul looks at the Wrigley Wax blogger statistics, he probably wonders why these old posts keep getting views. Sorry, that’s my fault! If I used Pinterest the way my wife does, it would be full of pinned Wrigley Wax posts.

This post from four years ago links to his Google doc checklist. And subtracting the number of Cubs cards quoted on that post from the number on his most recent 5 Random Cubs Cards this past Sunday, it was also more than 5,000 cards ago. Wowzers!

I have the file saved to my desktop and if it was a hard paper copy, it would be dog-eared! I think I have nudged him once or twice to update it with his most recent additions which he always graciously does.

Anywho, to make a short story long, the point of all this is that I was making my lists for Donruss a little while back and without the cards in front of me, came up with one more card than Paul had listed for the 1992 base team set. After cross referencing the lists, I discovered that I had a Mike Bielecki card that Paul didn't have on his list.

As an 18-game winner on the 1989 Boys of Zimmer team, I knew that Bielecki was certainly a Cub.

But after tracking down the card itself in my collection, I realized the mistake was mine and definitely not Paul’s. Take a look:

1992 Donruss #776 Mike Bielecki

Cubs uniform? Check.

 Wrigley Field (with ivy in the background)? Check.

 Team name? Check. Braves? D’oh!

I knew Bielecki had been traded to Atlanta but somewhere along the line, this card infiltrated my collection as an undercover Cub and managed to hide out for, probably, years.

But it’s a keeper. Allowing these exceptions might be the only way I catch Paul’s collection volume!

Thanks for keeping me on my toes, Paul!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Backside Appreciation Part 8

Yesterday, I showed a couple of cards that arrived from JediJeff of 2x3 Heroes. Today, I'm flipping one of them over to appreciate its backside.

In 1988, Score debuted with full color head shots on the backs of their cards. The next year, Upper Deck had larger photos on the back, taking up about half of the space. In 1991, Fleer joined the backside game when they introduced Fleer Ultra, which had a head shot and two smaller action shots.

Fleer Ultra's sophomore release toned it back a bit with just one action shot and a head shot. Well, not necessarily a posed head shot as you can see above on Hector Villanueva's card. The cards I have seen include a chest-up shot, but some were posed while others were candid.

I don't know exactly what's going on in that photo, but to me, it looks like Villanueva is mid-yawn. He could be talking but whatever he's doing, it is not flattering. I mentioned yesterday that in 1991, Villanueva ranked second of five Cubs catchers in games played. You can see on the back of the card that he played in 71 games. And that's the best shot Fleer could find?

I've seen a couple episodes of a Fox show called Enlisted and that photo reminds me of one the characters, Chubowski.

The front of the card isn't too shabby with a pseudo-action shot. We've also got a camera shy umpire and a cross armed Cub in the background.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

PWE from 2x3 Heroes

I feel like I type that post heading often enough that it should start auto-filling. Later this week, I'll be driving out to Minnesota and back. I was debating on whether or not I should take a break from posts for a few days while I prep for the trip and just post my team set on Saturday and Pro Debut on Sunday.

But thanks to Jenerous JediJeff's most recent PWE, I'm going to squeeze three posts out of it to help bridge that gap. Three posts from six cards in a PWE? Challenge accepted!

1981 Donruss #483 Ivan DeJesus
This Ivan DeJesus card was a collection upgrade. The one I already had was rectangular, but was cropped all cockeyed like. I may have to send that one to Jeff for his mis-cut collection.

1992 Fleer Ultra #477 Hector Villanueva
Hecor Villanueva was one of five Cubs catchers in 1991 and logged more time behind the plate than both Damon Berryhill and Joe Girardi. He had careers highs in batting average (.276), home runs (13) and RBIs (32) that season. Sadly, Cubs fans would probably take those numbers this year from that position.

1992 Topps Gold Winner #509 Doug Dascenzo
I had the base card. And I had the regular Gold card. And now, I have the Winner variation as well. Nice! I'd be surprised if there were many other Cubs Dascenzo cards I didn't have. If he had played in this era, he would probably be a guy I'd chase parallels of on the cheap.

1993 Leaf #224 Ryne Sandberg
This sweet Ryne Sandberg card must have been a duplicate for Jeff's double play collection but I will gladly add it to mine. As of now, my Ryne Sandberg collection has not been integrated as part of my Cubs collection so a lot of my team sets are missing Ryno. I have the cards and I don't know that I need second copies of Sandberg base cards this how hoarders start?

2014 Bowman 1989 Bowman is Back
Silver Diamond Refractor
#89BIB-KB Kris Bryant
Is that really what this card is called? What a mouthful! This is a card I didn't think I would own for quite a while and marks Kris Bryant's entry into my collection. I passed on one at the card show last month because it was in one of those protective cases that cost more than what I was willing to shell out for the card itself, under a glass case surrounded by relics and autographs. It was unmarked but what's the old saying? If you have to ask, you can't afford it. I may have been able to but if I don't see prices, I keep on walking.

One of these cards will show up later week in a Backside Appreciation post. The sixth and final card belongs in the Ivy Collection and will get its own post Friday.

Thanks for the collection injection, Jeff!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mark Prior Monday - 2002 E-X

In 2002, I had one foot in the hobby door, but I certainly wasn't buying things like E-x, a product put out by Fleer. According to Baseballcardpedia, packs of cards from this set ran $3-5 for just four cards. No thanks.

2002 E-X #140 Mark Prior
But that's not to say the cards themselves weren't any good. You can't really tell from the scan, but the card is kind of see through is the gray/white parts you see above. I still wouldn't buy packs but I won't hesitate to add the rest of the Cubs from the set. The jersey does seem kind of weird though. Is it not tucked in? I would think his waist is somewhere around the bottom so it should be gathered more. Something just seems off.

Also according to Baseballcardpedia, the set consists of 100 base cards, and a 39-card subset of rookies and prospects called "nEXt". The first 25 cards of nEXt are serial numbered while the remaining 14 are not. But Matt, you're saying to yourself, if there are 139 cards in the set, why is Mark Prior number 140?

I'm glad you asked. Apparently, card #133 was never made. It was supposed to be Drew Henson but Fleer's contract with him expired before the set's release.

Other Cubs from the base set include #5 Sammy Sosa, #34 Fred McGriff, #57 Moises Alou and #84 Jon Lieber. Sosa also has a couple of different relic cards.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Where Are They Now? 2011 Pro Debut Part 2

Last season when 2013 Topps Pro Debut came out, I decided to take a retrospective look at the Cubs prospects from the inaugural 2010 set and what they had done since. I got eight posts out of the sixteen card set and thought I'd do it again this year. Now that the 2014 set has been released, let's take a look at the Cubs prospects from 2011. This will be an ongoing series again for the next couple of Sundays.

Part 1 (Hak-Ju Lee and Brandon Guyer) can be seen here.

The Cubs drafted Reggie Golden in the second round of the 2010 amateur draft and joined their Arizona League team later that year. His card above has the foil stamp in the upper right corner that designates this as an actual "pro debut" card.

In 2011, Golden played in 64 games for the low A Boise Hawks, batting .249 with 7 home runs and 39 RBIs. He missed most of 2012 with a knee injury, playing just 7 games in Peoria all year. In 2013, the Cubs had switched Single A affiliates from the Peoria Chiefs to the Kane County Cougars. Despite the same amount of games as 2011 and two more at bats, Golden's number when down in categories they should have up and up where they should have gone down.

The Cubs released him towards the end of Spring Training this year.

Hunter Ackerman was also drafted in 2010 but in the 4th round. Unfortunately for Ackerman and the Cubs, his career path didn't get any better than Golden's. He spent '10, '11 and '12 in the Arizona League. He did make a couple of appearances for the Boise Hawks in 2012 as well but was released in mid-2013.

In April of this year, Ackerman signed with the Schaumberg Boomers of the independent Frontier League.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

2014 Topps Factory Team Set - Braves

In Series One, the Atlanta Braves had nine different players appear on nine different cards but depending on your definition of a team set, you may only end up with seven cards in your hand collated team set if you’re not careful.

How is that possible?

For fans of teams like my Cubbies, you may only be familiar with “League Leader” cards in passing and they don’t always get included with team sets. The Braves managed to fill some spots on a pair of these such cards but since they don’t appear in the Factory Team Set, we’ll save them for the end.

Of the seven single-player base cards in Series One showing Braves players, six made the Factory Team Set.

Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons

Julio Teheran, Mike Minor

Kris Medlen

These same six were all carried over into Opening Day in addition to four more players to create a 10-card team set for the Braves.

Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis

Craig Kimbrel

Chris Johnson

There was a lot of duplication between Series One and Opening Day but we’re given six new player cards from the Factory Team Set along with the stadium card.

BJ Upton, Alex Wood, Ryan Doumit

Dan Uggla, Brandon Beachy, Joey Terdoslavich

Turner Field

As promised, here are the pair of League Leader cards that feature Freddie Freeman among the National League Leaders in RBIs and Batting Average. Chris Johnson also cracked the leaders in Batting Average.

Brian McCann was the lone representative of the Braves on single-player cards to be left out of Opening Day and the Factory Team Set. Why? Because he signed with the Yankees in the off season!

But Topps can’t leave out any Yankees, so of course he’s Photoshopped into Yankees gear for both OD and the Yankees Factory Team Sets. But you’ll have to wait until I do the Yankees to those.

Not every team can have back to back team record setting roster sizes like the Cubs, but of all the teams I've shown, the Braves have by far been the least varied team. If you bought a Factory team set (17 cards), Series One team set (7 cards w/o league leaders) and an Opening Day team set (10 cards), you would have 34 different cards.

But if you just wanted one card of each player, you’re looking at just 18 cards and could put that together with just the Factory Team Set and a Brian McCann card from Series One. That’s almost kind of boring from a team collector standpoint.

OK, 19 cards if you count the mascot!