Thursday, June 7, 2018

Quick Update

I just wanted to give a quick update as it has been about three weeks since I last posted. I had some computer issues about three weeks ago. Between that frustration and back-to-back long weekend travel trips, there wasn't much time for the hobbies.

My weekend plans include going to get a new laptop, because that is probably smarter in the long run than trying to fix this one. A few years ago I rode a computer into the ground and lost some important files so I don't want to make that mistake again. This one gave me a good run.

Hopefully, I'll be able to bring the new computer up to my desired specs with the files I need and programs I use over the weekend and return to regular blogging early next week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wroad to Wrigley Wednesday - Mark Zagunis and Justin Hancock

Just after last week's Wroad to Wrigley post went live, I found out that the Cubs were doing another roster shuffle that included outfielder Mark Zagunis and pitcher Justin Hancock.

Zagunis managed just four walks and two stolen bases in seven games last year as a September call-up. He had to wait for being recalled this year to secure his first Major League hit.

Probably worth the wait for him!

The Cubs picked up Justin Hancock from the Padres in the deal that sent Matt Szczur out west. This Hancock card came out of the supplemental set that the Tennessee Smokies put out last year. This set included some rehabs assignments and guys like Hancock who missed the initial release.

Hancock made his MLB debut on May 9th and got a quick two outs. Quickly followed by a walk and home run. But in a 12-1 game, that's pretty meaningless.

The real tragedy is that with the bases loaded, Hancock got called out on strikes with this pitch and was robbed of an RBI:

Hancock certainly didn't get that call on the walk he gave up before the home run! The umpire must have had post game plans and needed to get out of there.

But I digress. Congrats to these two Cubs on their milestones!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mailday Monday - Topps Now Catch-up

Not much in the mail this week as I've had a bunch of things going on outside the hobby to keep me offline. However, it looks like my go-to Topps Now reseller was catching up on some shipments as I got a couple of purchases in one lump package.

The day before this card, the Brewers had walked-off the Cubs after the Cubs had battled back to tie the game in late innings. On this day, the Cubs gave up the go ahead run in the bottom of the 8th before putting up a 4-spot in the top of the 9th and eventually winning. Ian Happ drove in the tying and go ahead runs, playing the hero and getting the Topps Now recognition. At this point in the season, that brought the Cubs record up to 4-4.

A few days later, with the Cubs still battling the .500 bug, the Cubs took down another division rival, beating the Pirates 13-5. The highlight here was Javier Baez's second consecutive two-home run game. Baez came to the plate in the bottom of the second with the bases loaded and no outs. If not for a run scoring wild pitch during the at-bat, Baez could have had a grand slam. The second shot came in the bottom of the 8th and added the superfluous 13th run.

When the Cubs gave up 10 runs in the first four innings to the Braves on April 14th, they ran the risk of falling two games below .500 for the first time of the season. In what seems to be a theme this year though, they battled back with a nine-run eighth inning to secure the win.

Or "eigth" inning I should say. What?

When Topps originally posted the card, they had mispelled "eighth" on the front. I mentioned it to them on Twitter and they replied it would be fixed before printing. Sure enough it was as you can see by the card I scanned in. Maybe next I'll let it go and see if they correct themselves?

One of the great strories of the 2016 World Series was the success Kyle Schwarber had in his return after missing nearly the whole regular season. Schwarber continued his dominance at Progressive Field in the Cubs first trip back to Cleveland since Game 7 of that World Series with two home runs in a 10-3 victory. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day

In honor of the holiday, here are a few things in my collection that have Mother's Day ties.

Technically it was slightly more than two years ago, but two Mother's Days ago, Javier Baez hit a walk-off home run in the 13th inning to bring the team record to a pretty amazing 24-6.

I don't normally chase the parallels limited to fewer than 100 copies but I've made an exception for cards that also fall under the "I Was There" category, such these pink ones.

And this Rizzarper.

And Lackey. All four of these pink parallels are numbered out of 50 and featured plays from games I attended last year.

Ian Happ made his debut on May 13, 2018, the day before Mother's Day last year. The Cubs wore the jerseys with the pink lettering on the Saturday before as well. The first card is his rookie debut card out of 2017 Topps Update. The middle card is from the Salute insert set, also out of 2017 Topps Update and uses a slightly different crop of the same photo. The final card is another Salute insert but from this year's 2018 Topps Series 1.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wroad to Wrigley Wednesday

Don't you just love alliteration?

I've been adding team issued baseball card sets for all of the Cubs minor league affiliates the last couple of years. It's been a while since I did a post on them, definitely not since I've been back from my blogging hiatus.

I meant to do a few when I received the 2017 team sets for all of the Cubs affiliates, but scanning and cropping 150+ cards was a little daunting at the time and got put on the back burner once all the 2018 cards started coming out. Thanks again to P-Town Tom for helping to coordinate that acquisition when he went to the Cubs convention in January!

I recently found the scanned-but-uncropped images from these sets in a folder on my desktop. At the same time, the Cubs made some roster moves and after taking a look through the folder, I figured I'd get some of these posted. I made some progress on cropping and naming while watching these guys play this weekend so we'll start with them.

I like the design of the 2017 Iowa Cubs team set. Simple, but still attractive. The photography is not as crisp as the stuff Topps gets from Getty Images but still pretty good.

Victor Caratini was a little bit of a surprise 25th man to make the roster coming out of Spring Training this year. There was a lot of speculation that Chris Gimenez, a catcher with Yu Darvish experience, would snag the last spot. Caratini though has proven valuable off the bench and when spelling Willson Contreras behind the plate. He has also filled in at first base, including a stretch of games when Anthony Rizzo was sidelined with a back injury a few weeks ago.

Just last night he plated the tying and game winning runs in a comeback victory over the Marlins.

Part of the reason the Cubs needed to come from behind was a bit of a rough start from Jen-Ho Tseng, who made a last minute spot start for an under the weather Yu Darvish. Actually, the start was pretty good, as he got the first two outs on a 3-pitch strikeout and a 1-pitch groundout. Then four straight hits (including a single by former Cub Starlin Castro and homerun by former Cubs minor leaguer Justin Bour) landed the Cubs in a 3-0 hole.

Tseng regrouped in the second inning with two more strikeouts and another groundball to finish his day. Luckily, the Cubs got 8 innings out of the Kyle Hendricks the night before in the 14-2 blowout win so the bullpen was rested. They managed to shut down the Marlins the rest of the way.

David Bote pinch hit for Tseng in the bottom of the second. While Caratini drove in the first two runs of the game, Bote put the Cubs back in the game intially, driving in two runs with a two-out double. It was his second Major League hit but his first two RBIs.

The 2017 Tennessee Smokies cards are put out by Grandstand, but the fronts mimic the 2009 Topps set. The only difference I see is the position is in the upper left corner on these, whereas it is in the lower left corner on the Topps cards.

One of the things I don't like about minor league cards is that many of them don't have any kind of numbering system. Sure, I guess you could use the jerseys numbers, which the Smokies set has on the back, but then you have gaps in the numbering as not every number is used.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Topps Living Set - A One Red Paperclip-ish Story Begins

A few weeks back, Topps introduced us to the Living Set. If you've been living under a rock, essentially Topps offers three cards every week that you can buy together for $14.99 or separately for $7.99 each. The set mimics the 1953 design with original artwork by Mayumi Seto. Players will only be featured once, unless they change teams, so there is no worry about flooding the market with Aaron Judges or Shohei Ohtanis.

It's no secret that I will pick up any Topps Now card issued for a Cubs player. I wasn't quite sure how I would feel about the Living Set, but Topps didn't give me too long to think about it when Ian Happ was featured in week two. Now I just had to decide whether I wanted Happ for $8 or essentially double down for two extra cards. The third option was to get a card on the secondary market for just over $5, which is what I've been doing this year with the Topps Now cards.

Topps has rewarded Now buyers in the past so I decided to go through Topps, at least for the first one to get/stay in their database. And if I was going through Topps, I might as well get the three pack, right?

Happ was matched up with a rookie card of Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies and Nick Markakis of the Braves. I had some eBay success with a purple Toys R Us parallel of Hoskins back in February so I figured he would be a decent flip to minimize the cost of the Happ, maybe even pay for the whole set itself. Eventually.

Worst case scenario, he fizzles and I trade the Hoskins and Markakis to team collectors down the road. Markakis wasn't even on my radar as someone to flip when I made my purchase.

Fast forward a few weeks, I had also pulled the trigger on the week 5 set with Bryce Harper, AJ Pollock and Mallex Smith. The Harper is staying with me and I had already hit up Daniel of It's Like Having My Own Card Shop to trade away the Pollock. But I had no interest in the Smith card and don't even know any Rays collectors.

Imagine my surprise when I was clued in to the secondary market on these cards!

I don't normally talk money here on the blog because it really isn't about that for me. I buy cards that interest me, which means Cubs cards, packs with the hopes to pull Cubs cards or an occasional set build. I'm not a prospector. My only Ohtani cards are the ones I pulled from my Opening Day case.

Long story short, after eBay fees, Paypal fees, shipping and taking out my initial costs, I netted about $250 from selling the Hoskins, Markakis and Mallex Smith cards.

For those unfamiliar with the One Red Paperclip story, essentially a guy traded a single red clip for various other items, all the way up to a house. I had been thinking of doing something along those lines with my Opening Day case, to see how I would turn a case of random cards into cards that fit my collection but I think the scope was too big. At least for me.

Enter these Topps Living cards.

While selling the cards kind of goes against the premise of bartering, I did want to keep track of how initially spending $15 improved my collection. Since I've already turned it into $250, I'm going to track how I spend this "found" money specifically. I have a few things in mind but it'll be interesting to see what I can turn three cards that didn't have a place in my collection into!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Mailday Monday - Ivy and Nats!

I've done it again. I went and acquired too much, too quickly and am in backlog mode. In the past few weeks between the Opening Day case, a card show and the older Opening Day sets I picked up, I have to stop and get organized again before I do anymore buying sprees. 

However, during the offseason, I spent a lot of time combing sets looking for Ivy cards. When the 2018 card season began, I promptly left about 80 cards just sitting in my Cardbarrel cart. By the time I came back to it about two weeks ago, 4-5 were no longer available. I filled out the cart a little bit more to bump it over the free shipping mark and pulled the trigger. The cards above are the Ivy cards from the lot, with a few Cubs cameos mixed in. I'm still working on cataloging these, but I'm pretty sure this bumps me over the 600 mark for Ivy cards.

As for the filler cards, I found some early 2000s Cubs needs from when I wasn't back into collecting yet.

And a few more from 2009. These are from ten seasons ago already?!? Anybody kow why Aramis doesn't have a last name here? Is this one of those mimic "error" cards?

Last but not least, a bubble mailer full of miscellaneous Nationals cards from the Team Collectors group I joined. It's a bit hard to tell from the glare and they way I stacked them but there's about two team bags worth of cards there. My incidental Nats collection is now at about 250 different cards.

Now, back to organizing!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Repack Sunday

This is the last of my dollar store repacks. And after this one, I'm ok with that. Time to move onto a different style maybe.

This Chi Chi Gonzalez rookie from 2015 Topps was the cover card and doubles as the newest card in the pack. He is currently on the DL after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is not expected back this season.

Another Ranger here in Jeff Russell. This one nearly got skipped until I noticed the football in his hands. I remember the 1989 Upper Deck with Nolan Ryan throwing a football. Was this a Rangers thing? Russell is notable to me as the father of former Cub James Russell. James was traded to the Braves in 2014 with Emilio Bonifacio for current Cubs backup catcher Victor Caratini.

More Rangers! A Charlie Hough hot pack courtesy of 1986 Topps.

Or is it a Tony Armas hot pack? The 1983 card was also the oldest card in the pack.

Another rookie, Aaron Poreda from 2009 Topps Update and Highlights. Poreda finished his Major League career with, you guessed it, the Texas Rangers.

A pair of division rivals who would go on to become Cubs. 

Two horizontals. Trevor Crowe seems to be out of baseball. FP Santangelo has been the color analyst for the Nationals since 2011. 

Speaking of Nationals, wrapping up the pack is this Austin Kearns for the side Nats collection.

Going out on a bit of dud pack here. No Hall of Famers. No current Cubs. I may have to hit the Five Below again to see if they've restocked their $4.99 repacks. Or I hear Walgreens has had some recently.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Two Random Rynos

In this weekly series, I show off two random Ryne Sandberg cards from my 600+ card PC. One will be from his playing days (pre-1998) and one since his retirement (1998-present).

Back to the randomness.

Playing Days:

Today's playing days card is an insert from the February 1989 issue of Baseball Card Magazine. The whole calendar year worth of inserts are based off the 1959 Topps design, though it is missing the faux signature. This particular issue focused on top second baseman and also featured Juan Samuel, Julio Franco, Harold Reynolds, Lou Whitaker and Gregg Jefferies.

Cubs players were represented on 5 of the 72 cards issued in 1989. Andre Dawson and Damon Berryhill had cards similar to this one. Rookie of the Year, Jerome Walton had a Rookie Stars of 1989 card. And Sandberg had a second one, a dual card with Ozzie Smith labeled Keystone Combo.

Post Retirement:

Most companies have giveaways at the National Sports Collectors Convention and Leaf is no different. This card was a promo from 2012 when the convention was held in Baltimore. I picked mine up on the secondary market so I'm not exactly sure how these were distributed. It appears to be a 100-card mixed sports set.

The set information is incomplete on Trading Card Database so I don't know how many, if any, more Cubs there are. Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins are in the set and probably Cubs. Andre Dawson and Greg Maddux are as well, but which team they represent is usually a tossup. And actually, if you look at the card, front and back, you'll see there is no team designation at all. Not even a Chicago (NL).

The photo used is from the home run derby during the 1990 All-Star Game. The most obviously tell is that he is batting without a helmet, but I've seen it a couple of times on various cards over the years. Sandberg was the first player from the host team to win the derby. Todd Frazier recently did it as well when the Reds hosted.

*UPDATE*  Billy Williams and Andre Dawson are Cubs. Maddux is a Brave. I didn't see a photo of Fergie to confirm.

Friday, May 4, 2018

1994 Topps Stadium Club #109 Gregg Jefferies (Cubs Cameo)

I've sporadically done a couple of post series on the blog over the years.

Por Que No Los Dos covers horiztonal Ivy cards, because I collect both of those categories individually and I think it's kind of neat when they overlap.

If a Cubs player shows up in the background of a non-Cubs card, I'll usually set it aside as well and do a "Cubs Cameo" post.

I enjoy finding the source photos of newer cards, but I also really enjoy when I can nail down a game on an older card.

This Gregg Jefferies card out of 1994 Topps Stadium Club hits all of these categories and I was pretty excited when I came across it. It's got some white speckles along the edges as I imagine it was part of a brick of cards at some point. But since it is a non-Cubs card, I will just passively keep an eye out for a better looking copy.

With that said, let's see if we can game date the photo. It looks like a stolen base attempt. I feel like if it was a double, the Cubs player would be in a different position to field the throw from the outfield/cutoff man.

So heading over to Gregg Jefferies' Baseball-Reference page, I'm looking for a 1993 game at Wrigley Field between the Cardinals and Cubs where Gregg Jefferies has a stolen base or a caught stealing.

Jefferies was 2/4 on attempts at Wrigley Field in 1993.

On June 18th, Jefferies reached on an error in the top of the 1st but was thrown out as part of a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play. The receiving fielder is listed as the shortstop, Rey Sanchez. Though Sanchez wore #6 in 1992*, he wore #11 in 1993, which does not seem to match what can be seen on the back of the mystery Cubs player. So either way, the photo does not seem to match this play.

That didn't deter Jefferies as he stole two bases the next day, June 19th.

In the top of the 5th inning, Jefferies singled and eventually stole 2nd base cleanly. The 2nd baseman was #20, Eric Yelding. Again, not a clean match based on what we can see on the back of the Cubs jersey. Rey Sanchez was again at shortstop. Hmmm.

The other successful stolen base that day was of third, which does have any bearing here.

Let's fast forward to September 22 when Jefferies was thrown out for the second time.

In the top of the 4th inning, Jefferies had an RBI single but was thrown out trying to steal second. The shortstop was again the recipient of the catcher's throw.

This was a high scoring game (11-9 in the Cubs favor) so there were a lot of substitutions. Jose Vizcaino started the game at shortstop and bumped over to second base as part of a double switch-pitching change in the 6th inning. So Vizcaino was the shortstop of record in the 4th inning when this play happened. Vizcaino's jersey number in 1993?

16! I think we have a winner! I can easily see the "1" wrapping around to the unseen side of the fielder in the card photo.

Here is Vizcaino's card from the same set. You can see he is wearing the same kind of high-top Nike cleats in both photos. 

And for good measure, here is the back of the Jefferies card.

* Sanchez switched from #6 when Willie Wilson joined the Cubs prior to the 1993 season. Wilson had worn #6 during most of his tenure with the Royals and A's.