May 29, 2009

Baseball Card Perfection

I don't really have the time or energy to properly post and do justice to this card, but I'll give it a shot anyhow. Over the last couple of weeks I've gone from just organizing my cards into teams, to actually getting a chance to go through them more closely. One of my favorite players to collect as a kid was Bo Jackson.

It was impossible to escape the superstar known simply as Bo. At a time when there was no internet available for following sports, Bo was everywhere. NFL, MLB, commercials, magazine ad and of course sports cards. I can't even imagine how big a star a guy like Bo Jackson would be in today's world of over-saturated media coverage. Honestly, we're probably lucky that Bo was a part of the 80s/90s and not today. After about a month of Bo in today's world, we all would have turned on him and hated ESPN for the constant coverage of all things Bo.

I was all about Bo as a kid. I had pictures from Sports Illustrated on my binder at school, posters on my walls at home and every baseball and football card I could find. Everyone wanted the Score card featuring Bo with bat and shoulder pads and I was a fan of most of his football cards, but for me it was always more about the baseball cards.

I was fascinated by the 87 Topps Future Star card, I was always in search of cards from the 1986 traded sets, and it seemed to me like every Bo Jackson card was a beauty. Even so, it wasn't until 1990 that I found what has become my favorite of all Bo Jackson cards.

1990 Upper Deck
Bo was the ultimate athlete and this card shows that mix of grace and power with ease. As far as baseball, Bo will most likely always be remembered for his home run in the 1989 All-Star game in Anaheim, breaking bats over his knee and running up the outfield wall. This card features Bo in the field, maximum effort and as always (at least in the eyes of a 12 year old) coming through with the big play.

As time has passed I've begun to appreciate this card for other reasons. While the 1990 Upper Deck design was a bit of a letdown after the pleasing shock of 1989, the design is minimal and pleasing in this instance. In no way does it distract from the photo, which is clearly the star here. I also love the old school baseball feel of this photo. OK, I realize my definition of old school in this instance is only a look back about 20 years ago, but still. Bo's wearing real stirrups. And even better, he's rocking the flip up shades, which have managed to keep Bo's hat from flying off his dome while at full sprint. Just a piece of baseball card art.

Even the back of this card is pleasing to me.
1. You have to love the all blue Royals road unis.
2. The picture is taken at the Big A, always a plus for a Halo fan.
3. The biceps of doom are on full display.
4. Short career=full stats up through 1989.

OK, I'll stop belaboring my point. I love this card. Truly an example of baseball card perfection.

Go Halos!

May 28, 2009

A Horrible Memory Often Leads to Great Surprises

A few days before the release of Topps Series 2, I ordered a jumbo box from Blowout Cards, paying a pretty decent price, a price I was even happier with after it jumped up upon release. That order was made about 11 days ago and with the end of the school year upon me, my memory is even less impressive than normal.

As I arrived home today I stopped to grab the mail and was a bit surprised to find a bubble mailer and a heavy box. Bubble mailer was easily explained, I bought Angel cards off eBay. The box was a mystery, especially since the return address just ststed, Fulfillment Center. I knew it was a box of baseball cards, but why oh why?

Fantasies of free boxes sent from the baseball cards danced in my head. Perhaps Topps decided to replace one of my crappy Pirates redemptions for a full box of cards. Yeah, not so much. It was my box from blowout, but the surprise still made the moment an exciting one.

So while the rest of you suckers exercise your brains with puzzles and eat memory foods like broccoli and spinach, I'll just go on eating cheeseburgers and enjoying the simple happiness of a forgotten purchase.

Go Halos!

May 26, 2009

I Wanna Hate The Guy

Oh, Bart. I wanna hate you. I wanna be pissed about you coming back to Anaheim and shutting down my Halos. I wanna go on an angry diatribe about your eating habits and make jokes about your chins. But I just can't do it.

I saw you put in the effort in Anaheim. Sure, you may have been put in more effort at Hometown Buffet, but you're still the only Halo hurler to win a Cy Young in my lifetime. So despite what my inner fan is telling me to do, I'll ignore the little voice and say, "Congrats Bart, enjoy it now and never do it again".

Now I'll redirect my anger towards a pathetic offense and their lack of any clutch hitting. Oh well, we're still in the hunt and it looks like the West may very well come down to the last few games of the season. I just hope we're a part of that mix at the end.

Go Halos!

May 24, 2009

2009 Upper Deck: An Outfielder's Dream

The oh so tempting siren song of he care aisle caught hold of me once again this afternoon and I couldn't resist picking up a blaster of 2009 Upper Deck Series 2. While I find that I prefer the Topps set this year by a decent margin, I still like the UD offering and I'm pretty sure I'll pick up a box of series 2 soon.

As I ripped through the packs I had one eye on the cards and one eye on Hailey as she seemed determined to topple a pile of unsorted Halos off my desk. Even with only one eye trained on the action, a few things stood out.
1. The StarQuest cards are pointless. Hooray, I got a Nick Markakis Emerald Super Rare! Now what the hell does super rare even mean? Consider me a confused collector.
2. I don't really get the reason for the Goodwin Champions preview cards. Losing a baseball card from my pack for your advertisement doesn't inspire me to want to buy this future set. Especially when the subject on the card looks like the old guy who walks around my neighbor every evening.
3. The last thing I noticed, this set is an outfielder's dream. As evidenced below, there were a number of cards featuring outfielders making great diving catches. Don't believe me? Keep scrollin'.

I really appreciate that UD actually featured pictures of defensive plays on their Gold Glove Award Winner cards, at least the 2 I received. I get easily annoyed by cards like these that show the player hitting or high fiving a teammate.

Not as dramatic as teammate McLouth's leaping grab, but pretty decent nonetheless.

I'm thinking it may be time for the Pirates to invest in some ground ball pitchers. These outfielders are having to work way too hard.

Just a base card, but I much prefer this to my Emerald Super Rare StarQuestpalooza card I also pulled.

Perfect mid-action shot. The look on his face is one that is only seen right after the look of "I can do this" and right before the look of "Holy crap I better not blow this".

Probably my favorite of all the outfield play cards. If you're Trevor Crowe, you've gotta pretty stoked to have this as your rookie card. Beats the hell out of posing in front of the batting cage.

So is 2009 Upper Deck superior to Topps? After ripping through some retail I'd have to give that one a big nuh-uhh. But it's a worthy effort, especially if you're a fan of outfield defense.

Go Halos!

May 23, 2009

CSI Cardboard: The Sketch Card Mystery

Back in February I was pretty excited to pull a redemption for a 1/1 sketch card and after a few months of waiting, it has arrived. On our way to lunch, I swooped by the post office, signed off and received my card. Quickly, I rushed back to my truck and gave the small envelope to my wife for the purpose of extracting the hidden gem inside. The following conversation is how I best remember things going down.

Me (having not seen the card): Well what do you think?
Her: It's pretty cool I guess...
Me: Pretty cool you guess? It's a one of one. Who's on the card?
Her: Some white guy.
Me (calmly): OK, how about you read the name off the card.
Her: There is no name.
Me (still calm): Check the back.
Her: of the athletes of professional baseball.
Me: WTF?!

Yup, I'm the proud owner of a sketch inspired by the athletes of professional baseball.

I know what you're thinking, how hard could it be? Check the uniform or hat and figure it out. Well, that's where things get a little sticky. The hat? It's from the 2008 MLB All-Star game batting practice line.
Well that narrows things down, a white guy who was part of the American League All-Stars.
White guy AL all-stars:
Joe Mauer
Kevin Youkilis
Dustin Pedroia
Josh Hamilton
Justin Duchscherer
Roy Halladay
Scott Kazmir
Cliff Lee
Joe Nathan
Jonathan Papelbon
Joe Saunders
George Sherrill
Jason Varitek
Justin Morneau
Ian Kinsler
Michael Young
Joe Crede
Evan Longoria
J.D. Drew
Grady Sizemore

After all that, allow me to unveil the 1/1 sketch card of one of the above 20 players.
Hmmm...facial hair, sideburns and sunglasses on the bill. Through my best efforts I'm going to assume/hope that it's Evan Longoria.
Facial hair...check. Sideburns...can't really tell here. Sunglasses on bill of cap...check. White guy...check.

So is this a sketch card of Evan Longoria or just a composite of what a player would look like if an artist were inspired by the professional athletes of professional baseball? You make the call.

Go Halos!

May 22, 2009

2009 T2: Judgment Day

Thanks to the wife's excellent shopping skills, I was able to rip through some packs of 2009 Topps Series 2 and yesterday I looked mainly at the Halos and Legends. Today, it's everything else. And I figured with Terminator 4 out this weekend, we'd give a little shout out to Arnie and T(opps Series)2. It can't be merely a coincidence that T2 came out in 1991, the year that last saw Topps put out a set that focused on photography so much.

We'll start with the non-base.
Easily the lowlight of the set for me. Not to get all xenophobic on you, but I really just don't want cards of players from the Japanese WBC team or Cuban WBC team or even the USA WBC team. I was over the WBC in February, I certainly don't need to be reminded of it now, especially since they haven't even sent me my WBC redemption from series 1. Isn't it enough that Topps put out a small set of these cards?

There's nothing I can add on to the Turkey Red discussion that hasn't already been bantered about on blogs far and wide. I like 'em, you like 'em, score one for Topps.

8 packs got me 2 gold cards. Schneider and Upton. The Upton being a pretty unique and odd photo, but one that I like.
I'm not sure how I feel about golds. When I open a pack and see the gold border I get a little excited and feel like I've pulled something semi-rare, but that's where the excitement ends. I tend to stick these cards in the back of the binder or send them off in trades. Ehh.

On to the base.
You gotta love cards that have the blur of the pitch coming right at you. The Aceves card gets a bonus for horizontal positioning, while the Street also comes in with a bonus due to the odd hand placement on the follow through.

Could there be a more boring shot of a picture than one where he's covering his face while chatting with the catcher? Well, yeah there probably are many more boring, but this is certainly up there. Perhaps just one of these cards would suffice. Although they are slightly on the boring side, they also convey a little bit of baseball strategy and gamesmanship, which is not lost on me.

Two rather odd cards featuring Jeter. In one he's awkwardly leaping over a Ranger with the base no where in sight. In the other he looks almost photoshopped into the card. Combine the blank stare with his size seeming disproportionate and you've got a winner here.

Next up are two combo cards that seemingly are using the wrong combo of players.
Wouldn't Chase Utley have been a slightly more appropriate choice on a card about Philadelphia bombers? I like Jimmy Rollins, but 11 home runs is not exactly the stuff of a bomber.
Chief Lefties would seem a title appropriate to left handed pitchers that play for the Indians, so Sowers and Laffey both fit the title, but I just get the feeling that maybe Cliff Lee should have been featured here. Sure his 2009 is not following his 2008 too accurately, but the guy did when the Cy Young in '08, maybe Topps could have thrown him a bone here. Even so, the card is entirely too reminiscent on the Ray Guns card from Series 1 featuring David Price and Scott Kazmir.

Normally I loathe getting manager cards in my packs, but this may be one of my favorites. While most manager cards feature a shot similar to the one of Mike Scioscia that I posted yesterday, this card actually has a managerial action shot! Nothing beats the 64 year old manager out hitting ground balls before the game.

Votto seems to be a bit more of an emerging slugger than a guy bunting for base hits, but hey we need some diversity in our collections. Votto collectors will come to appreciate this card after seeing 10 years of photos showing yet another line drive swing.

Juan Pierre does not stand a chance on this play at second, but you've still gotta appreciate the effort and the helmet flying off to reveal the hat underneath. It's like we're back in little league.

Spring training effort, the hallmark of the on the fence youngster.

Being a third baseman all through my baseball career, I'm always a fan of cards that show third basemen making the difficult plays that are only made from that spot on the diamond.

Ryan Howard is definitely a prodigious slugger, but is there any doubt that he missed this pitch by a good two feet?

The Nelson Cruz card is on its way to becoming one of the "iconic" cards of this set. I'm pretty sure when we look back at this set and reminisce like we do about the 1991 set, this card will be the equivalent of the Benito Santiago looking up for the foul ball or the Clemens leaning against the Monster. Unfortunately, this card still leaves me wondering what Nelson Cruz looks like.

Thus ends the look at 8 packs of T2. I was sold after series 1 and series 2 did little to disappoint. Sure the WBC cards are pointless to me and will likely never find their way out of the commons box, but the rest is right on. I love the Legends, both regular and SP, the Turkey Red was well done and of course the photography was a huge step up. Now I'll just have to wait for my Jumbo box to come so I can work on completing the set and of course pick up my autograph of whichever Pirates player they decided to sneak onto the checklist.

Go Halos!

May 21, 2009

2009 Topps Series 2: The Quest Begins

Thanks to the efforts of the wife tonight, I was able to rip into some series 2 packs and finally quench the desire for some new cards. Outside of series 1 Topps and UD, I haven't bought packs of any new cards this year. A combination of budget and just dislike for much of what's out there has led to a fairly dry year. Thankfully, the venture into blogging has provided a number of new Angels cards which have more than filled in the gaps.

The wife was able to snag 8 packs at Target, so I figured I'd show off the Halos and Legends cards today and hopefully the rest of the highlights tomorrow.

Sure, it's just a ToppsTown card, but at least it's a TT card of Vlad wielding imposing wooden stick of doom.

For once all of the unnecessary signage and clutter in dugouts today has paid off by revealing that this picture was taken in Cleveland. OK, so it's not much of a payoff, but I'm always a little bit curious of where the card pictures originated from.

I like the horizontal and feel like it's one of the best parts about this set, but couldn't Topps have found a picture from the regular season for Kendry. I realize cards like this happen for players new to the team like Abreu (below), but K-Mo deserved better.

Outside of Torii Hunter, Abreu has pretty much been the offensive highlight for the Angels this season. With his zero home runs, that should tell you a little something about the Halo offense. Even without the power, this signing has been really important for the Angels this season. Hopefully a healthy Vlad can start driving him in upon his return.

Love the angle that this photo was taken at. Matthews will never be a beloved Angel, but at least he has a card that I will look back on fondly on 55 million dollars later.

Vladdy the Legend. I hadn't looked through any of the checklists for Series 2 or glanced at many blogs lately, so this was a very cool surprise. It's easy to get frustrated watching Vlad swing wildly at balls in the dirt or over his head, but it's also nice to open a pack of cards and see one of the players from your team on a card designated for legends.

Speaking of legends...
Cy Young. Apparently this guy was good enough to have an award named after him.

Mel Ott. 511 home runs for a guy who stood 5'9" and weighed 170 pounds. Obviously it was a different game in Ott's era, but it's fascinating to look back at these accomplishments.

Campy. 10 seasons, 3 MVP awards. Campy was a man of efficiency.

Rogers Hornsby. The Career Best cards are interesting in that they show you the best a player did in each offensive category at some point in their career. The numbers on the back of the Hornsby card are incredible. A season with a .424 average, 250 hits, an OPS of 1.245, 42 homers, 152 RBIs, 47 doubles, 20 triples, 156 runs scored...and it goes on. Incredible.

And finally, the legendary SP
I really enjoy these SPs and wish I had the money to chase after them. While the legends cards in general are a highlight to me in 2009 Topps, these cards are even more interesting in that they just blend in with the set. My eyes did a double take when I realized this was a Jim Palmer card and unlike the Mickey Mantle cards of past years, these cards look natural and like they should be part of the set. This one really has me tempted to go after more.

That does it for part 1 of the 8 pack break. Some nice Halos and some even cooler Legends of the Game. While the photography for '09 has been lauded often, it's the Legends that put this set over the top for me. After opening packs I tend to spend another half hour on the internet looking up information on the players and reading various writeups. These cards make me feel better about baseball and that's always a good thing.

Part 2 tomorrow...hopefully.

Go Halos!

May 20, 2009

Getting a Card Fix From a Junkie

I've been in a bit of a funk lately, but nothing pulls you out of a funk quite like some free cards. These were courtesy of Jeffrey over at Card Junkie. First Jeff sent along some Angels cards as a thank you and then followed that up with a couple of cards from off of my 2009 Topps Series 1 Wantlist. These 2 cards put me just 8 away from finally putting to sleep Series 1.

First up, the 2009 Topps cards, both of the horizontal persuasion.
I'm thinking a more creative photo might have been in order for a card celebrating an MVP.

On the other hand, the Furcal cards is just plain sweet. Excellent use of the horizontal.

On to the Halos. Jeff sent a number of cards from various sets, so I'll hit you with a couple of highlights.
My first and maybe only 2009 Goudey card. The reviews have been poor and my budget is tight. Not a good combo for the boys at Upper Deck seeing my dollars. I've been itching to open some packs and Goudey has been at the Target for a couple of weeks, but even so I haven't been able to pull the trigger. Not a good sign.

I'm not the biggest 88 Fleer fan, but I like a lot about this card. The pure 80s spectators are nice, combined with the dirty uniform, real stirrups, the old orange railing that made any Anaheim Stadium background card instantly recognizable and the Schofield batting stance which looks to me like a guy who's a bit scared of the ball being thrown in his direction.

DiSar the prospect.

Polonia the superstar.

The highlight of all the cards. I have no idea what set this came from. It's numbered 537, so apparently there are a number of this set floating around, but outside of that it has no identification. Even the back only has a 3 paragraph write-up about the "Best Hitters in Baseball" and nothing else. Odd and wonderful.

Thanks for the cards Jeff, I really appreciate them.

Go Halos!

May 18, 2009


rut (noun) - a monotonous routine that is hard to escape

Example: I feel as if I have fallen into a rut because I find myself doing the same activities every day.

I'm not sure how to break from this rut, but I need to figure a way out because it's dragging me down. Tomorrow's a new day, hopefully one of inspiration and renewal.

Go Halos!

May 14, 2009

Whittling Away at Series One

Thanks to Ed at Roll out the Barrel, I am slowly making my way towards a completed series one Topps set. After reading my post about mistakenly getting Topps Throwback cards, Ed sent me an e-mail, offered up his cards for free and I received them within a couple of days. It doesn't get any better than that.
Ed sent along the above cards: 9, 14, 54, 60, 70, 73, 84, 121, 128, 148, 180, 230, 245, 274, 308 so now I'm only in need of:

7, 41, 63, 66, 105, 108, 137, 179, 200, 266

10 cards to go. It can be done.

Thanks again Ed, I really appreciate the help towards this goal. I'm working on something to send off as a thank you. Hopefully I'll finish this set off before becoming too overwhelmed by series 2.

Go Halos!

Matt Palmer: Halo Hero

With all of the injuries to the pitching staff to open the season, plus the untimely and unfortunate death of Nick Adenhart, the starting pitching of the Angels appeared to be the dimmest of spots for the team. Anthony Ortega has been pretty bad, Dustin Moseley has pitched like, well Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux hasn't been awful, but not terribly impressive either. On the other hand Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver have both stepped up huge and pitched wonderfully.

The biggest surprise of all has been Matt Palmer. 4 games started, 4 wins.
First start of the season? 7 innings against Detroit, surrendering 4 runs, but picking up the W.
2nd start at new Yankee Stadium against C.C. Sabathia? No problem. 1 ER, and the W.
3rd start against the 1st place Royals? Psssh, 1 ER and another W.
Then came the 4th start Wednesday night against the Red Sox. As a diehard fan I was starting to get excited about this guy and you have to love his story. 30 years old, on his way out of baseball, clears waivers from the Giants, heads to Venezuela for winter ball and suddenly he's in the Angels rotation. If you haven't read about Matt, do so now, I'll wait.

Are we good? Ok, you gotta love that right? "I was in the bullpen before the game in New York," Palmer said, "just moving around, looking around. I told myself, `You know, I love baseball.' It just came to me, and I felt good, calm."

So there he was Wednesday night facing the Sox after another bullpen implosion the previous night. 1st inning? Bad. 2 run home run to J. Bay. 2nd inning? Bad. 2 more runs. The familiar feeling of "Well, it was fun while it lasted" started to creep in. But then, Mike Scioscia showed why he's a managerial genius. After the second, he walked over to Palmer and said, "No more". Apparently that's all Matt needed to hear. The 30 year old rookie has learned to listen during his struggles in the minors because he heeded Scioscia's instructions and went on to let in no more. In fact, he retired the final 19 Red Sox hitters. Complete game Halo victory.

Obviously I want Matt to go on and dominate all season. I want him to flourish and become a front line starter, but if he falls apart after tonight, I'll still always remember Matt Palmer fondly. 2009 has already been a very memorable season for Angel fans, but most of those memories are not of the positive variety. This however will always be one of the highlights of the season.

Every time a new player is suspended for steroids or a new scandal arises people question why we love baseball. Why do we follow this sport so closely? Basically, why do we care? Well, I care because of Matt Palmer. I care because it's fun rooting guys like Matt. In this past week alone I've felt the excitement of a great pitching duel between Greinke and Saunders, felt the elation of Torii Hunter going a couple of feet over the wall to bring back a game tying home run in the 9th and felt the pure goodness of watching Matt Palmer throw his first career complete game against the Sox.

Damn, I love baseball. Thanks for being a part of that Matt.

Go Halos!