Friday, July 3, 2015

Fantasy Becomes Reality - Some 2015 Bowman Pillow Talk

No, I didn't pull a Kris Bryant super-vallyrian-X-factor-auto card. Sorry to disappoint, but that kind of luck doesn't find me when I open new release packs.

That being said, I had a lot of fun opening up a blaster of 2015 Bowman. I know what you're thinking, "Dude, Ryan has LOST it. He is always raving about vintage and completely trolling modern cards. Now he gives us modern card pack-busting reviews in back-to-back days? WHAT IS LIFE?!?"

Don't worry, I haven't lost my mind - or, at least not that I'm aware of. What I did do was embrace the "do what I want to do" potential of Father's Day a couple weekends ago and it was EVERYTHING I hoped it would be! After getting our two older kids to bed, I kissed my wife on the forehead as she settled in with our newborn and whispered, "I'm off to see Jurassic World. I love you."

You see, pillow talk has always been an area of expertise for me. Sorry ladies, I AM indeed madly in love with my wife - who, by the way, is totally cool for accepting me and all of my geek/collector-tastic tendencies. So, off I went, to go see a summer blockbuster movie by myself that I knew was going to be completely cheesy BUT DIDN'T CARE because I was going to see a movie. By myself. In a theater.

My heart raced as I sped towards the targeted shopping center in my high-performance Camry. Carefully weighted down with two car seats in the back, I made a hairpin turn into the Target parking lot just prior to reaching the theater.

"I'm buying some baseball cards, dammit."

Gypsy Queen had tantalized me for several weeks so I snagged a couple of rack packs. But I wanted luck would have it, I had been adjusting my fantasy baseball lineup earlier that day in the Buy-Buy-Baby parking lot. The minor league prospects from my roster were fresh in my mind, you what happened next was purely an act of impulse.

"Bowman! Bowman! I want SCHWARBER," was the weird rambling that escaped my mouth as I dashed towards the registers. Women & children warranted little regard as I weaved my way to an open register, glancing nervously at my watch to mark time until previews started. It's ALL about the previews, man.

I made the movie (my first 3-D experience) and loved every mouthful of gloriously buttered popcorn as I watched Chris Pratt & Co. avenge the disaster that was Jurassic Park III while falling short of the original movie's excellence. That's okay! I was in Father's Day Nirvana and the joy continued when I returned home to rip open some guilty-pleasure wax. Here were a few that caught my attention:

Nothing beats a Rizzo for my PC!

Okay, maybe a Betances for my PC comes awfully close...

Oooooh, sweet - Yankee prospects! I can lay claim to Luis Severino and Aaron Judge on my fantasy minor league rosters, but I'm glad the Yanks can claim this guy, Jorge Mateo. He is quickly gathering buzz in the Bombers' farm system as a speedster (52 bags as of 6/29) with offensive upside. Batting only .275 with a couple of homers, he is still growing at 20 years of age but has already matured greatly by displaying noteworthy plate discipline and working on his other tools as a ball player.

Wait, there's more?

These Chrome inserts are always nice and I'm ecstatic to add this Greg Bird to my collection. He is on the cusp of joining the Show as the parent club works out a future that is currently clouded with aging stars and rent-a-bats. Their time will eventually come to an end and Bird is a prime candidate to step in as a difference maker despite his season that was interrupted by a stint on the disabled list.

Nelson Gomez was a multi-million dollar international signing for the Yanks. He holds a lot of potential offensive upside and is giving us a glimpse by batting .285 so far this season with five home runs in only 95 at-bats. That translates into some huge power potential, though I am a bit conflicted with his 3B designation alongside my Irish brother, Eric Jagielo. Good problem to have, I suppose.

So there you go, some Bowman fun! I've only lightly dabbled in Bowman for the obvious reason that the set is all about the big prospect "hits" - autographs, colored parallels, etc. Par for the course, I didn't pull any mojo in my blaster. But as a fantasy baseball player who tracks minor league prospects across the league, this set has become a lot of fun for me to rip. I know a lot more of the players than I used to and that adds some meaning and enjoyment to an otherwise gamble-heavy release that my risk-averse collecting approach won't allow me to enjoy.

Plus, I have half a mind to send all of these to my friend, The Lost Collector, so that he can get them autographed for me. He's a hobby badass like that.

Thanks for reading and have a safe 4th of July!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

2015 Gypsy Queen - I Shall Build Thee

It dawned on me the other day that I was much more passionate about new release cards back in 2011. Inspired by the pending arrival of my son that July, I had just gotten back into our glorious hobby after nearly two decades of complete cardboard nothingness. Essentially, I collecting like a chicken with his head cut off those first few months back in the fray. I was buying a little of this and a little of that but buying some of everything that came out. Unfortunately, this didn't last long enough to include 2011 Topps Update (TROUT!), but that's another discussion.

To show for my economic contributions, I am very proud to have a complete, hand-collated "birth year" set of 2011 flagship and Archives for my son to flip through one day and enjoy (or trade for a video game, or sell for beer money, whatever path he takes). I am also darn near close to completing the Heritage and Gypsy Queen sets from that year - with one and twelve cards remaining, respectively. Check out my NEEDS list and see if we can help each other! Not too bad though, overall.

But as you can divulge from my posts over the years since, my personal collecting habits have begun to steer away from modern releases. There's a myriad of reasons - some quite empirical while others are a bit more philosophical. It can be expensive to complete sets, pack by blaster by pack. Especially when you can just drop a little over $20 and bring entire Series home with no collating fuss and shipping included. The sellers usually even throw in a nice box. It's quite the inner conflict for this Collector, I assure you.

Because I still like to open packs of baseball cards!

There's still that rush to be had and, truth be told, there are still some pretty cool cards being made from a design perspective. The return on investment has become awfully risky, but there's no doubting the quality of photography and overall card construction for most sets...for the most part.

Enter son #2.

My family welcomed our third child into the world back in March, It's been a glorious, chaotic and beautiful circus ever since as we figure out life as a family of 5. I wouldn't trade it for the world! And since I'm a fair and just father (or at least strive to be), I can't help but look upon those great hand-collated sets from 2011 in my Card Cave. And then I look at what I'm doing for my youngest...and then I feel the itch to right the wrong....

And then I find myself in the card aisle at Target with a blaster of 2015 Gypsy Queen in my hand!

Yep. I'm at it again - officially, I'm announcing that I will be pursuing the complete base set of 2015 GQ for my kid. I have a long way to go after only (6?) or so rack-packs, but I figure that I have some time. I'm not sure if I'll chase all of the SP's like I did in 2011. I can't afford to make the rookie mistake again of buying all GQ blasters in the state, as much as I'd like to...and that's okay. I think everyone will understand.

In the meantime, it was a lot of fun to rip some packs and explore the latest edition of a set that is very sentimental to me. Here's a quick glance at some of my favorites:

The Shelby Miller represents what is probably my biggest "hit" of the rack packs, being a #'d /199 mini parallel. I'm a Braves fan, so this was a nice little bonus and the GQ mini's have slowly earned my appreciation over the years. I wish I could go back to 2011 when I amassed a considerable portion of a complete set of mini's. I didn't really understand what they were or how special it would have been to gather the whole run, so I ended up trading many away. That's okay - all part of the process.

BOOM! The next best thing to pulling a Brave is pulling THE Brave that managed to elude the Atlanta front-office rebuilding cyclone last off season and one of my top Player Collections - Freddie Freeman! This mini is a great addition and I can't wait to "binderize" the Freeman stack that sits atop the Card Cave table of chaos. Here's a look at the back of these cards, because I really love the GQ backs, despite their stat-less existence:

I thought this was a pretty cool insert as well:

Undoubtedly a vintage, throw-back insert set that I need to go research on Cardboard Connection, I enjoy the simplistic old-time feel of this art card. It's also a mini parallel, so unless I decide to go all out for mini completion, I might end up swapping this one out for regular sized cards that I need for my set-building efforts. Here's the back, so that we can all learn about "Crowding the plate":

Moving on from the smaller cards, here is a regular-sized insert card of Robbie Cano entitled, "Pillars of the Community". What a great concept for a baseball card! We're often inundated with only the very worst news and stories regarding our diamond heroes but Topps has decided to swim upstream and provide an encouraging look at some charitable efforts being made by ball players in their teams' communities.

Concept aside, this is a beautiful card. The image of Seattle is really sharp and means a little bit more to me as a former resident. I wonder if there was a discussion about working SAFECO Field into the background? In the end, I believe the Space Needle works better as the most iconic landmark for the Emerald City. At least they didn't go with the original Starbucks, am I right?

Here's the back of the "Pillars" Cano card:

I first noticed "celebration" and "walk-off" cards in the Opening Day and flagship sets a couple of years ago and I was immediately a fan. I think these types of cards capture the best parts of baseball - teamwork, family, competition, achieving your goal, having fun, etc. I think the concept works well in the Gypsy Queen format and this Royals card is a great example. Like the Pillars card above, I can't wait to see other cards from this insert set. Enjoy:

As I've mentioned before, I enjoy cards that pay tribute to a specific game or event and take care to match relevant images with relevant card-back write-ups. This GQ Walk-Off Winners card delivers on both accounts when I flipped this card over:

Part of the marketing effort by Topps includes the "bonus" pack of white-bordered parallel cards that accompany each rack pack. Sometimes these annoy me - other times, they look really nice and end up serving as excellent TTM material. I admit, the crisp white borders do look pretty nice - and are always welcome when they surround a new Mike Trout card:

Here's another white parallel that I thought looked awfully sharp:

In addition to the Freddie shown above, I had another great pack-ripping moment when I pulled an Anthony Rizzo base card! Yes, I am old and still get excited about base cards of my favorite players - no shame in my collecting game. Of course, now I need another one if I am going to "finish the race" and set this one aside for my son's set. Good thing I love the little guy :)

Here's the back - are the GQ card-back write-ups getting shorter? I know they were always succinct by design, but this one seems fairly random (which I do appreciate) and sparse at only four lines with additional blank space to be had towards the bottom. Thoughts?

Okay, so I have some work ahead of me to get my 2015 GQ NEEDS List posted, but hopefully I can stay the course and make a best effort to pull together some nice birth year sets for my youngest boy. Feel free to drop me a note if you think we can work out a swap. Long live set-building!

Thanks for reading -



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Mattingly Collection: 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces #106

Part of my collecting goals moving forward was to re-energize my pursuit of Don Mattingly cards for my favorite player collection.

To break the seal on this new adventure, I snatched up a Donnie Baseball "lot" on the Bay of E for a decent price. It was a lot of fun to crack open and flip through - sometimes sheer volume is a wonderful thing! On the downside, there were numerous "usual suspect" cards that already resided in my collection but from what I gather it's really to be expected with these wholesale opportunities.

One of the cards that I did NOT have, however, was this 2008 UD Masterpiece:

As I am sure many of you will agree, these releases from Upper Deck usually live up to their name and make excellent additions to any collection, regardless of your penchant for modern, junk, vintage or anything in between.

This particular Donnie displays a beautiful "oil on canvas" style image of Mattingly executing his familiar swing plane from the left side of the plate. It's easy to appreciate and the dark, delicately raised and foiled border of this card works quite well with the contrast of the Yankees' pinstriped home uniforms. Throw in a little eye black and peekaboo stirrup, and we're GOOD TO GO.

Here's the back:

Please accept my apology for the blurriness of this image, but you get the idea. A cropped version of the card's front image sits atop some basic biographical data but the real gem is the popular "Mattingly statistic of choice", his streak of home runs in eight straight games during the 1987 season. At some point, I really should gather all of the cards I have that pay homage to this feat, just to get a sense of the quantity and diverse approaches.

While I poke a little bit of fun at its redundant use, this HR stat for Don truly was amazing and will always be one of my favorites. Why? Well, it still stands - having only been tied by The Kid during an eight game stretch in 1993. AND I'd be remiss as a Mattingly fan if I failed to mention that Donnie slugged ten home runs during his streak compared to the eight solo shots from Griffey, Just saying! Honorable mentions are when Jim Thome fell one short in 2002 along with Barry Bonds in 2004. I wonder if I have any Dale Long cards in my archives? Must look...

Still got it, Donnie! This is a great addition to my Mattingly collection. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Thank you for reading!