Wednesday, December 31, 2008

100 things I learned in 2008

Happy New Year! Mr. Sandberg is dressed for the big event, even if he is a bit confused about what year it is.

I'm looking forward to 2009. But before I ring in the new, I must ring out the old. So here is a list of a 100 things I've learned in 2008, as they relate to this collecting hobby of ours. Some of these "things" are fact, some are opinions, some are just plain nonsense. And I fudged a little bit here and there to get to 100. And I'm counting backward, like Casey Kasem.

Here's what I've learned:

100. Blasters are my friend.
99. My friend keeps reminding me of how stupid I am for picking him (her?) as a friend.

98. People exist who love 1991 Fleer and 1988 Donruss. And that's helped me enjoy them, too.
97. Short-printing, and any other tactic that produces artificial scarcity, is the ruin of this hobby. If any one factor is powerful enough to destroy this hobby, this is it.
96. Giants fans make for good trading partners. Who knew?
95. Topps has ruined the legacy of Mickey Mantle. What Mantle and his fans took 50 years to create, Topps shattered in 10.
94. Watching the Dodgers is fun again!
93. The Dodgers CAN win a postseason series.
92. Watching the postseason is fun again!
91. I'm a vintage collector. Still. I thought that immersing myself in the current state of the hobby would change my view. It has somewhat. But what it has really done is reinforce that I like the old cards much, much better.

90. But I still love chome.

89. I especially love chrome when it features an all-star in front of a lighted scoreboard. Sweet! (If only Howard was actually doing something in this photo).
88. Chase Utley is my new favorite non-Dodger player.
87. The willingness to pick up a towel at a postseason sporting event, and wave it frantically in hopes that it will spur your favorite team on, is the sign of some sort of character flaw.
86. Card collectors are the nicest, most pleasant people on earth.
85. It's better to give than receive. I already knew this. Dave of Tribe Cards just reinforced it.
84. There are baseball fans in the United Kingdom!
83. The most detailed, well-thought-out comments I received on this blog this year were in reference to baseball announcers. Announcers, pay attention! You're being watched. And reviewed. Fans really care about what you say and do. Think about that.
82. I love my 1971 Topps set even more than I did four months ago. And other people out there love '71s, too.
81. There IS an electric fireball zipping behind Manny Sanguillen on the 1976 Topps card. Yes there is. Is, too!

80. Card shows are more fun when you're shopping for more than yourself.
79. The 2008 Topps Heritage team cards are the best team cards ever, as long as there are no fences blocking half the team.
78. Set of the year: Topps Allen & Ginter. Easily. Take a bow Kerri.

77. Favorite card of the year (that I don't have): Russell Martin, 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces (but it's on its way!)
76. Favorite card of the year (that I do have): Sandy Koufax, 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces (yeah, I know it's last year's card, but I saw it for the first time THIS year).
75. Favorite card of the year that I do have that IS from 2008: Russell Martin, 2008 Stadium Club, edging out Russell Martin, 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter (he had a lot of good cards).
74. The best horse cards are not from Bella Sara, but drawn by one of the girls at Dinged Corners. That card still holds a place in my daughter's room.
73. My favorite PunkRockPaint card: 1975 Topps Sandy Koufax
72. My knowledge of late 1980s retail and regional sets is much greater than it was four months ago, thanks to fellow bloggers.
71. I love 1990 Classic, in all its forms. The louder the better.
70. I love 1988 Score. A set to collect in the future.

69. There are actually a fair amount of people who don't like foil stamping. Yeah!
68. Caramel creams ARE sold in movie theaters. Yes they are. Are, too!
67. I don't like myself when I buy Upper Deck Baseball Heroes. I become a parallel chasing goon.
66. The best kind of card: blue chrome refractors.

65. Collectors have an incredible number of cards, and an incredible number of certain athletes in particular. And thanks to some collectors, I now have an incredible number of Orel Hershisers and Hideo Nomos.
64. Collectors love to share their knowledge, whether it's on Japanese baseball cards or promo cards or obscure sets. I've tried to reciprocate when I've been able to, but my knowledge isn't nearly as vast.
63. What I said about 1990 Classic and 1998 Score? They still can't compare to 1993 Upper Deck. Another set to collect for the future.
62. Pointless, ridiculous, but quite enjoyable: the red-letter backs on 2007 Topps.
61. We're freaks. To those outside of our hobby, anyway. The good news is: I don't consider any fellow collector a freak. Only a friend.

60. Collectors will part with fantastic cards. In the last four months I've received a 1950 Bowman, a 1957 Topps, a 1963 Topps, a couple of 1967 Topps, a couple of 1968 Topps and a bunch of 1971 Topps.
59. I love card contests (there's one going on here. Deadline to enter is 3 p.m. Jan. 1).
58. I love card contests in which I only have to say, "I'm in!"
57. I love card contests in which I only have to say, "I don't know what that is," and I win!
56. "Cards," that open like books, are not cards.
55. Triple cut signatures are not cards.
54. Cards that don't feature photographs of the player, but do feature an autograph or a relic of a player, are not cards.
53. I have no interest in cards that are considered "big hits" or cards that "every collector would love to have," if that card is ugly.
52. I now know who Dan Opperman is!
51. I now know who Frank Eufemia is!
50. I now know who Lou Thornton is!

49. Favorite post that I wrote this year: the first Blog Bat Around about being a set builder.
48. Favorite blog idea this year: the Blog Bat Around
47. When I started 2008, I never would have figured the two sets I would complete this year would be 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter and 1983 Topps.
46. I love the variety of baseball card blogs out there. So many different personalities, backgrounds, opinions and interests!
45. I'm happy to say that a few more people now know what "night cards" are!
44. Topps Heritage is the girl next door. Topps Allen & Ginter is the hot, fascinating, mysterious new girl on the block.
43. The mail is my friend again.
42. Email is my friend again.
41. I am not the only one who didn't know that the Milwaukee Brewers logo of the 1980s was a glove formed out of the letter "M" and "B." Phew, what a relief!

40. Collectors will send you autographs and relics though the mail!
39. Most pointless sets of the year: Upper Deck First Edition, Topps Opening Day, Upper Deck X, Topps Co-Signers, Upper Deck Artifacts, Upper Deck Spectrum, Upper Deck SP Authentic.

38. The most pointless set of the year: No, not Opening Day. I'm going with Upper Deck Artifacts. The set is boring in every way. Too boring to even show here.
37. I've come to the realization: I don't really care if all other sports disappear. As long as there is baseball, I'll be happy.
36. I love oddball cards. I don't know much about them, but I love them.
35. Baseball cards are very tasty. If you're a dog.
34. The 1986 Topps set DOES have issues. It does. Does, too!
33. I LIKE the 1986 Topps set. I do. Do, too!
32. There needs to be more Dodger cards of Jimmy Wynn.
31. The 1975 Topps Herb Washington card fascinates a whole mess of people. That is so cool! (No, I haven't tracked down his address yet. But I still hope to).

30. The deaths of George Kissell, Preacher Roe and Dock Ellis affected me more than I thought they would.
29. Funniest card I received in a trade: either the Eric Karros Ultra Pro card of him in a tux, or the Tommy Lasorda Baseball Enquirer card.
28. I don't think Topps Heritage High Numbers gum is actually gum.

27. The "Rihanna Good 'Idea' Gone Bad of the Year": The return of Topps Stadium Club

26. The "Good Idea Gone Bad That I Still Like": Topps Stadium Club.
25. The 1988 and 1978 Topps blogs warm my heart.
24. Card blog site that makes me think: Dinged Corners
23. Card blog site that makes me laugh: Cardboard Junkie
22. Card blog site that makes me want to change: Sports Cards Uncensored
21. Card blog site that tells me something I didn't know: Wax Heaven

20. Card blog site that shows the most love for baseball: It's a tie. Dinged Corners, Cardboard Junkie and White Sox Cards
19. Dodgers I'll miss: Takashi Saito, Brad Penny, Nomar Garciaparra
18. Dodgers I'll miss only when I'm in a charitable mood: Jeff Kent, Derek Lowe
17. Coolest blog trend: Creating cards that never were. White Sox Cards, Goose Joak, Green Monster and Writer's Journey do an excellent job of this. PunkRockPaint is the king. Someday I'll give it a try.
16. Card set that lots of people like, but I don't really: Upper Deck Goudey.

15. Card blog that I said hello and goodbye to in the same year: The Baseball Card Blog.
14. Best non-auto or relic insert: Hmmmm. Probably the colored-bordered Upper Deck Masterpieces card. And I don't own a single one.
13. Most in-your-face card subset: Yankee Stadium Legacy.

12. Most in-your-face subset, runner-up: Mickey Mantle Home Run History (funny, both in-your-face awards go to Yankees-related cards. Hmmm).
11. Best card collecting trend: a lot of people are still collecting sets.
10. Worst card collecting trend: pack searchers (although I can't get as angry as others do about this).

9. Saddest news in my neck of the woods: I found out today that the collectibles shop where I first rekindled my love for cards back in 2004 no longer sells cards. I stopped by for the first time in two-and-half years today. The man said, "we haven't sold sportscards for two-and-a-half years!" Freaky. Did they stop selling because I stopped coming in?
8. Cards I never thought I'd enjoy receiving in the mail: doubles!
7. Quickest card brand turnaround: Upper Deck Timeline. Hated them in November. Loved them in December.

6. Greatest blogger gift, part I: 278 1976 Topps cards from Eric of 1987 Donruss blog.
5. Greatest blogger gift, part II: 338 1986 Topps cards from Matt F. of Heartbreaking Cards
4. Greatest blogger gift, part III: 434 cards from Jeff of I Am Joe Collector
3. Favorite blog moments to read/see: sons and daughters collecting cards, husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends busting boxes
2. Favorite light-bulb-over-the-head moment: (Circa September 2008): Blogging about cards! I love to write! I love baseball! I love cards! Holy smokes! I was destined to do this!
1. Favorite surprise of the year: That I could start a blog, that people would read it, and I would find collecting friends all over the country and the globe. It's been fantastic.

Thank you for a great 2008!

Awesome night card, pt. 15

On this last day of 2008, it's fitting that I feature someone who had one heck of a 2008. In fact when you combine on-field success with "baseball card" success is there anyone else that had a more gangbusters year than Evan Longoria?

In terms of collecting buzz and actual on-field performance, Longoria has to be at the top. You could make a case for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, I guess, but neither of their teams went to the World Series.

I admit, it took me a long time to get wind of who Longoria was. I'm about as far away from a "prospector" as you can get. But I'm on board now. There really is no hype with this guy. He's a fine, fine player who should have a long, long career.

Here's to ya, Evan, for a great 2008. And anyone who calls you "Eva" in 2009 is just an idiot.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stadium Club deja vu ... again

I read with interest Cardboard Junkie's account today of the two different Topps Stadium Club blasters that he had busted and how similar they were. That's because I bought an SC blaster yesterday, and noticed it was remarkably similar to dayf's blasters.

How similar? Well dayf listed a side-by-side, card-by-card account of each of his two blasters. I'm going to put my blaster up against those two. Dayf differentiated between his two blasters with red and green Christmas colors. I'm going to put my blaster in blue, because I always like blue lights at Christmas.

Here's the startling rundown:

1 Chase Utley
1 Chase Utley
1 Chase Utley

5 Russ Martin
5 Russ Martin
5 Russ Martin

6 Curtis Granderson 1st day
6 Curtis Granderson 1st day

9 Alfonso Soriano 1st day
9 Alfonso Soriano 1st day

13 Alex Rodriguez
13 Alex Rodriguez
13 Alex Rodriguez

14 Prince Fielder

15 Alex Gordon 1st day
15 Alex Gordon 1st day

16 Jake Peavy
16 Jake Peavy
16 Jake Peavy

23 Tom Glavine
23 Tom Glavine
23 Tom Glavine

28 Ryan Church
28 Ryan Church
28 Ryan Church

34 Brian Roberts
34 Brian Roberts
34 Brian Roberts

35 Ken Griffey Jr.
35 Ken Griffey Jr.
35 Ken Griffey Jr.

36 Troy Tulowitzki

38 Hunter Pence
38 Hunter Pence
38 Hunter Pence

41 Adrian Gonzalez
41 Adrian Gonzalez
41 Adrian Gonzalez

43 Felix Hernandez
43 Felix Hernandez
43 Felix Hernandez

44 Magglio Ordonez
44 Magglio Ordonez

48 John Lackey, 1st day

50 David Wright
50 David Wright
50 David Wright

51 Ichiro, 1st day

53 Josh Hamilton
53 Josh Hamilton
53 Josh Hamilton

56 Garrett Atkins
56 Garrett Atkins
56 Garrett Atkins (photographer's proof)

57 Joe Mauer
57 Joe Mauer
57 Joe Mauer

62 Joba Chamberlain
62 Joba Chamberlain
62 Joba Chamberlain

63 Kevin Youkilis, 1st day

64 Victor Martinez
64 Victor Martinez
64 Victor Martinez

74 Rich Harden
74 Rich Harden
74 Rich Harden

80 Ryan Braun
80 Ryan Braun
82 Manny Ramirez
82 Manny Ramirez

85 Matt Holliday
85 Matt Holliday
85 Matt Holliday

87 Jimmy Rollins, 1st day
87 Jimmy Rollins, 1st day

88 Hideki Matsui

92 Mickey Mantle
92 Mickey Mantle
92 Mickey Mantle

93 Ty Cobb, 1st day

99 Ted Williams, 1st day

100 Tom Seaver
100 Tom Seaver

109 Garrett Mock, RC
109 Garrett Mock, RC
109 Garrett Mock, RC

113 Jeff Clement, RC

119 Jed Lowrie, RC
119 Jed Lowrie, RC
119 Jed Lowrie, RC

125 Josh Banks, RC
125 Josh Banks, RC
125 Josh Banks, RC

126 Mitch Boggs, RC, 1st day

129 Elliot Johnson, RC, 1st day
129 Elliot Johnson, RC, 1st day

130 Brian Barton, RC, 1st day

131 Sean Rodriguez, RC

133 Chin-lung Hu, RC
133 Chin-lung Hu, RC
133 Chin-lung Hu, RC

135 Jeff Niemann, RC, 1st day

136 Jay Bruce, RC
136 Jay Bruce, RC
136 Jay Bruce, RC

141 Mike Aviles, RC, 1st day
141 Mike Aviles, RC, 1st day

142 Greg Smith, RC
142 Greg Smith, RC
142 Greg Smith, RC

143 Nick Blackburn, RC
143 Nick Blackburn, RC
143 Nick Blackburn, RC

144 Justin Ruggiano, RC, 1st day
144 Justin Ruggiano, RC, 1st day

145 Clay Buchholz, RC
145 Clay Buchholz, RC

146 German Duran, RC

147 Radhames Liz, RC, 1st day

And that is a nice example of how card companies are trying to make set-builders extinct. Out of three blasters, these are the only cards that were not duplicated:

14 Prince Fielder
36 Troy Tulowitzki
48 John Lackey, 1st day
51 Ichiro, 1st day
56 Garrett Atkins, photographer's proof
63 Kevin Youkilis, 1st day
88 Hideki Matsui
93 Ty Cobb, 1st day
99 Ted Williams, 1st day
113 Jeff Clement, RC
126 Mitch Boggs, RC, 1st day
130 Brian Barton, RC, 1st day
131 Sean Rodriguez, RC
135 Jeff Niemann, RC, 1st day
147 Radhames Liz, RC, 1st day

And eight of those came out of dayf's "green" blaster, which appears to be the most unique of the three, but that's not saying much.

I find it interesting that dayf ended up with two Manny Ramirez cards and I got NONE. Anyway, that puts the kibosh on me buying any more Stadium Club blasters.

Goodbye 2008: the inserts

I'm not dumb enough to consider "Work Hard, Get Cards" an insert, but think about it for a minute: It's not part of the base set. It's randomly inserted in packs; you don't get one in every pack. That's the definition of an insert, right?

OK, enough foolishness. This is where I count down the inserts/subset cards I got in the various packs I purchased since November. Fourteen separate packs yielded what I'm about to show, and it's a pretty depressing lot. I like the last card, and that's about it. What follows pretty much sums up what you got in retail packs in 2008. Or at least what I got. These cards and the rest, listed along the sidebar, go to the winner of the contest. You can get the rules and enter here.

Off we go:

11. Mickey Mantle, Home Run History, No. 430, Topps Chrome. This is a waste of valuable chrome. Get these out of the chrome set.

10. Dennis Kucinich, presidential campaign subset, Topps Series I. You see correctly; I ranked Kucinich above Mantle. That's because Mantle cards have been annoying me for about four years now. The presidential cards are only a recent annoyance.

9. Brian McCann and Bronson Arroyo, Diamond Collection, Upper Deck Series 2. Was anyone thrilled to get these cards? They almost look like advertisements, instead of cards.

8. Graig Nettles and Spud Chandler, Yankee Stadium Legacy, Upper Deck Series 2 and Upper Deck X. YSL cards don't quite tick me off as much as others. They have no value to me, I know that. But I can see the attraction for Yankee fans. My question is when is Upper Deck going to genuflect before the 29 other teams that make up Major League Baseball?

7. Lastings Milledge, Upper Deck X die-cut. This barely qualifies as a card. Good thing it's not Upper Deck I. That'd be one skinny "card." I'm wondering, if you remove the hanging-chad type things does that decrease the value of the card? (Everyone now: "No because Upper Deck X doesn't have any value." Ba-dump-bump.)

6. Micah Hoffpauir, Upper Deck Timeline, SP die-cut. This is a better use of the die-cut, although still not a fan. Card is cut a little rough on the right side.

5. Trevor Hoffman, Upper Deck Goudey mini (blue back). Ken Griffey Jr. says: Solid card.

4. Carlos Guillen, Upper Deck X, Xponential. I agree fully with everyone. If these were the base cards it would be one heck of set.

3. Kelly Johnson, Upper Deck Baseball Heroes, charcoal variation. I don't know what the deal is with me and Kelly Johnson cards this year. At one point I had four different Heroes variations of Johnson, and I was pulling a Johnson chrome card out of every other pack.

I'm not a Heroes rainbow chaser. I like the idea of chasing rainbows. I also like the idea of getting paid to write this blog, and that's not going to happen.

2. Alfonso Soriano & Chris Carpenter, Marquee Matchups, SP Authentic. What does it say that this is ranked second? Still, for me, these Marquee Matchups cards are the only reason to buy Authentic. Isn't it snazzy?

1. Melky Cabrera, Topps Chrome black border (19/59). Nice card. This is the first one of these that I've pulled from a loose pack. And the best of a fairly sorry bunch of inserts/subsets.

That will do it for the 2008 card countdowns. I'll post one last farewell to 2008 tomorrow. Then it's on to "aught nine"!

Monday, December 29, 2008

10 answers ... and some other stuff

Here is a post about various items, none of them particularly related except for the fact that they all have to do with baseball cards.

First, even though I already responded to Dinged Corners' New Year's Baseball Card Questions in the comments, I noticed that others had responded on their own blogs instead. I've enjoyed reading their responses, which are much more detailed than any comment can be. So, I figured I'd do that, too. Some of these questions I've already rambled about, so bear with me.

1. If I didn't collect baseball cards, I'd collect ---
A:
I don't even like to think about this. It's like asking me what I'd do if I was a girl. I like myself just the way I am thank you! Anyway, I suppose I'd collect baseball magazines or yearbooks or something like that. I did a little of that when I was a teenager. If there were no cards around, I'd still have to keep it baseball.

2. My baseball heroes include one that you probably wouldn't know from my blog or comments, and that person is ---
A: I wouldn't call him a hero. He's someone I admire. And that person is Chipper Jones.

I mentioned this once before in the early days of this blog. I am in awe of players who look and play like they were put on this earth specifically to play ball. There are very few of those kinds of players. Even players with a ton of talent don't qualify. It's a trait that's kind of hard to define. But Chipper Jones is definitely one of those players. I mentioned this before: if Major League Baseball ever decides to change their logo, they should make it the silhouette of Chipper Jones. Because he is baseball in many ways (Keep in mind, I do not even like the Braves, that's how much of an impression he's made).

3. Every New Years, I resolve to --- my collection.
A: Organize! I have reached the letter "H" in my card-cataloguing system. It has been grueling. I know what it's like to write stories for a living. It's not quite that grueling. But the drudgery factor, on a scale of 1-10, is about a 14.5.

4. If I could spend a day with one person from baseball history, it would be ---
A: Pee Wee Reese.

I know a lot of people answered Jackie Robinson for this question, which is cool. Here is why I answered Pee Wee Reese. Robinson's story has been told, by him and others, tons of times. I'm sure he could tell you some stuff you've never heard, but I've heard a lot of it already. Plus, as a white man, I confess there are some things that African-Americans had to endure during the 1940s that I would have a hard time grasping, because I did not have that background. Fascinating stories, yes. Awful stories, yes. But I think Pee Wee Reese's role would be something I could relate to even more. We are linked by skin color, as sad as that is to say. If I was a ballplayer for the Dodgers during the 1940s, logic dictates I would be Reese, not Robinson.

I am always interested in people who are thrust into a situation in which they have to choose between what is popular and what is right. Reese was a white athlete. (A southern, white athlete, at that). He made the right decision and befriended and supported Robinson. That could not have been easy. I would love to hear about why he made the decisions he did and what he went through. Plus Reese began his career at the start of Brooklyn's great run, and he was there until the end. There were some great stories there.

On to Lucy's questions (they're not so heavy, man):

1. What is your favorite kind of dog?
A: A beagle. Our dog is mostly beagle, but he's got a little Basset Hound in him.

There he is. Ain't he cute? He's also a baseball-card chewing, Christmas ornament-chomping, pillow de-fluffing troublemaker.

2. Who is your favorite baseball player?
A: My favorite ballplayer of all-time is Ron Cey, former all-star third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers. My favorite current player is more difficult for me to answer. As you get older (I'm not older than the oldest active ballplayer, but I'm getting there), it's harder to relate to the younger players. The generation gap starts to interfere. I guess I'd say Russell Martin, but I could change my mind tomorrow.

3. What is your favorite team?
A: Oh, if only these questions could have been on my college exams! The Dodgers. Brooklyn, Los Angeles, it doesn't matter. Did you know the Dodgers were once called the "Bridegrooms"? Yup, they were.

4. What is your favorite baseball movie?
A:
"Field of Dreams." I fully realize that it's sappy. But there is a lot of important stuff in that movie. And how can you beat a movie in which "Moonlight" Graham and "Shoeless Joe" Jackson are key parts of the story?

5. What is your favorite baseball book?
A: It's a series of books, actually, by writer Roger Angell. In my opinion, he is the best baseball writer to have ever existed. He has written for "The New Yorker" for a long time, and the stories in the books are taken from those magazine articles. His books (I have five of them) are about the baseball players and the subjects of the time. Angell loves the game, but he doesn't get sappy.

Among my favorite stories: Three grown men who live and die for the Tigers during the early 1970s; the demise of Pirates pitcher Steve Blass; the 1975 World Series; a great, great article about Bob Gibson; the 1986 World Series (Angell is both a Mets and Red Sox fan, so this is a terrific read), and lots of other great stuff. From the 1960s all the way into the 21st century -- Stan Musial to Barry Bonds -- he's seen it all.

6. What is your favorite card?
A: I think this is the third time I've featured this card on this blog. But I don't mind. It's my favorite card! It's a 1975 Topps Ron Cey. There's a story behind it, but I've told it already.

Those are my answers. So nice of you both to ask!

And, that was a little longer than I had planned. The other two items I wanted to mention are shorter.

Second item: I finally was able to get to the store and buy some baseball card materials (I got stuck behind a woman buying a boatload of half-off Christmas stuff and discussing with the clerk in great detail how much she saved).

I purchased a much-needed binder and sheets, and put together all of the 1986 Topps cards I had received from various bloggers. In the process, I discovered another card that I need: No. 46, Billy Hatcher. I've added it to the want list, along with No. 102 (Joe Orsulak). The other two cards I need are on their way to me, I believe. Also, I discovered I have about 50 or so doubles. If anyone is looking for '86 cards (I'll be sure to reserve some for Rod of Padrographs as soon as he finds out what cards he still needs), I might have some.

Third item: deadline for entering the contest is January 1st, and I'll announce the winner later that day. Keep in mind that not only will I send the winner all those cards along the sidebar, but I'll try to find something you're especially interested in and send you that, too (I'm not stocked with 1 of 1s and autos, though).

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Goodbye 2008: the best

I think this is going to serve as my "cardboard appreciation" post of the week. "Cardboard appreciations" might be my favorite posts to write, but considering this is a list of the "best" of the packs that I bought over the last two months, it's basically several "cardboard appreciations" all rolled into one. And it cuts down on some work for me! Sweet!

Remember that I'll be giving away the cards featured here in this post and all of the ones listed along the sidebar under "Win these packs!" For the rules on how to enter, just go here, and enter your guesses. This, by the way, is just one of the card contests going on right now. "Spot the Sig," over at Phungo is still going strong. Dan from Saints of the Cheap Seats is giving away autos and relics for merely answering a trivia question. And Wax Heaven is keeping us all in suspense with an upcoming contest.

So, anyway, here is what I liked about the packs I bought for the purpose of this year-end countdown. I hope you enjoy them, too, although you probably have seen many of these cards before. On with the show.

13. Josh Beckett, World Series, Topps Series I. This is probably the best feature of the Topps base set in 2008. The return of postseason cards in the flagship set. Yeah! I hope it continues.

12. Clay Buchholz, Topps Series I. I've seen Topps use this pose/picture for a couple of other cards, but when I saw this card originally I thought it was very cool. Not only is it a scoreboard shot, which I love, but it's a scoreboard shot of his no-hitter against the Orioles in September 2007. That's great. Again, Topps wasn't relying on spring training shots in 2008. Great to see a late-season action shot.

11. David Wright, Upper Deck Timeline. I have never switched my opinion on the design of a base card more quickly than I did with Timeline. The first time I saw them, I hated them. Now I think they're very nice (1988 Donruss there's still hope for you yet!)

10. Lou Piniella, Topps Series I. I love photos that seem to sum up a person's personality. That's what this card does. Lou slouched in the dugout. Great!

Back in the late 1990s when Piniella was managing Seattle, a couple of our sportswriters went to Toronto to cover a game and ask Piniella some questions about Jay Buhner, who has some ties to this area. When they returned, we were curious about one of the reporter's opinions about Piniella, knowing that the reporter was a lifelong Yankee fan. Someone asked him what he thought of Piniella, and the reporter said: "There's a man that does not take care of himself." Cracked us up. That's what I think of when I see this card.

9. Hideki Matsui, Upper Deck Timeline, Timeless teams subset. This card should probably go in the "inserts" post that I'll be writing tomorrow, but the card really isn't here for the front ...

It's here for the back, and the wonderful stadium shots. How can you go wrong with a photo of Yankee Stadium in its final season? It's no secret I don't like the Yankees (my reasons? I need to work myself into a seething rage for that post). But I respect their tradition, and they really do have the best stadium in baseball.

8. Warren Spahn, Upper Deck Goudey. These cards of old-timers is what saved UD Goudey in my opinion. Even the fact that the paintings may not look exactly like the players doesn't bother me with the old-timers. Probably because I'm so used to seeing earlier players in paintings, rather than photographs. Nice card.

7. Mariano Rivera, Topps Heritage. Heritage at its best. A great retro design, a nice color, a great portrait photo of a smiling Rivera. Very nice.

6. Jason Varitek, Pat Neshek, Carl Crawford, Lance Berkman, Upper Deck Series 2. I put all these together just to illustrate how much Upper Deck still kicks ASS when it comes to photography. I don't know why they're so much better than Topps in this department, but I'd like to know the reason. It's killing ya, Topps. It really is. Great, great photos.

5. Joba Chamberlain, Topps Stadium Club. OK, Topps can do good photography, too, when it comes to Stadium Club. This is a cool photo. But here's what Topps needs to do: it needs to put cool photos in the BASE set. And not just a handful. And don't fool around with short prints and overpriced hobby boxes just because you think collectors will flip for the great photography. Because collectors already know they can get great photography from UD without all the tomfoolery.

4. Marcus Thames, Upper Deck Series 2. I separated this card from the other UD cards because I like it so much. Thames must know one of the photographers because he had a great UD card in 2006. And now he's got this one.

3. Ichiro Suzuki, Upper Deck Masterpieces. Masterpieces at its best. It's not the Russell Martin card (then again, what is?), but it's pretty sweet.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Topps Chrome. This card has nothing to do with the subject or the photo. It has everything to do with the fact that it's chromy. I will never stop loving chrome cards. I don't know when chrome cards first came to be or who invented them, but they need to put that guy up there with the guys who invented peanut butter and the superconductor.

1. Gary Sheffield, Topps Stadium Club. I've seen this card a few times now. It doesn't make me love it any less. Great, great card. They need to do a whole series of cards with shots like this. In fact I'm a little sad I'm giving this card away.

That's the best of the packs. Well, except for the inserts/subsets. Those are coming tomorrow. And those cards always fun, right? Remember to enter the contest as I'll be announcing the winner on January 1.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Goodbye 2008: the worst

To recap, this is where I review some of the cards that I have bought over the past two months. It's kind of a retrospective of what the card companies were putting on the retail shelves in 2008. I tried to pick up a pack of as many brands as possible.

I am giving away all of the packs that I bought. What you need to do in order to win the cards is take a look at the list of cards purchased along the sidebar, under "Win These Packs!" Guess which card I pulled first from each pack, guess which pack I bought first and guess which pack I bought last, and then leave a comment with all your guesses on this post or on this post. The person who guesses the most "first cards" wins all 120 cards.

What I'd like to do now is count down what I think are the worst of what I received in these packs. Some of the comments will be common complaints expressed by collectors about 2008 cards, but most are just my pet peeves. I hope these cards don't prevent you from entering the contest. Because the "best of the packs" countdown is coming up tomorrow. So, anyway, here is the worst, from the least of the worst to the worst of the worst:

15. Chipper Jones, Upper Deck X. There is nothing wrong with this specific card. Chipper is just serving as the poster child for the whole disaster of a set called Upper Deck X. I know I'm not the first to say this, but the letter they should have selected is "Y," as in "Y" oh "Y" was this set made?

14. Ian Kinsler, Upper Deck SP Authentic. It's time to put this brand to bed, too. Nothing about it intrigues me. And this is a lousy shot of Kinsler. I'm sure the ball is in the catcher's mitt.

13. CC Sabathia, Season Highlights, Upper Deck Series 2. Upper Deck photography can do a lot for a card, but it can kill an out-of-shape athlete. Look at that gut! They say any ballplayer looks good in Yankee pinstripes. Sabathia will test that theory.

12. Kosuke Fukudome, Topps Updates & Highlights. I don't know all of the people to blame for the reason that I heard SO MUCH about a guy who hit .257 with 10 home runs. But I do know the card companies, particularly Topps, are at the top of the list.

11. Jeff Manship, Bowman Chrome. You hear a lot about Bowman Chrome and Bowman's "Home of the Rookie Card" claim. But I've never heard anyone comment on the design for these "1st card" subjects. Who came up with this design? It's awful. And the color didn't work with 1992 Donruss, so why use it again?

10. Jhonny Peralta, Topps Heritage. It pains me to see a Heritage card on the "worst" list, but I have to do it. Peralta represents the most frustrating part about collecting Heritage. The set has so many short-prints, that when you finally, FINALLY get a short-print and then instantly realize that you, ugh, ALREADY HAVE IT, like Peralta here, it makes you want to whip the card across the room (not that I've done that).

9. Webb-Verlander-Hernandez, Upper Deck Baseball Heroes (I don't even know what to call this card). The random grouping of players here is UD's answer to Topps' Combo cards. The tie-in for these three players? They're all pitchers, they're all, sort of young, I guess, and they all have enjoyed varying success. That's about as wishy-washy a pairing as you will find. Stop wasting my time, UD.

8. Ken Griffey Jr., Upper Deck Goudey. Lots of collectors like this set. For me, the fact that some of the paintings are not accurate likenesses of the players they portray killed any thought I had about collecting this set. Griffey is such an example.

7. Randy Johnson, Upper Deck Masterpieces. (Johnson is attempting to play for every team that I despise, by the way). Here's the Masterpieces example of what I mentioned with Goudey. Johnson looks older than his 45 years -- a LOT older.

6. David Ortiz, All-Star, Topps Updates & Highlights. I know some of y'all like this. Me, not so much. The All-Star cards just take a spot away from some other players who don't get a card all year. And if you're going to feature an EXTRA card of Big Papi, get something a little more exciting. This looks like I took it with my disposable camera purchased at "Pharmaceuticals and Beyond."

5. Johnny Estrada, Topps Updates & Highlights. Pssst, Johnny, I say this because I care: you look like a fool.

4. Carlos Beltran, Topps Heritage. 2008 has to be a record year for pulling damaged cards from packs. So many corner dings! Mr. Beltran's upper right corner is not mint, shall we say. To the person who wins these cards, I apologize for the damaged Beltran.

3. NATO Created, Historical Moments, Upper Deck Artifacts. These Artifact cards bore me to tears. I'm not against history or learning. I love Allen & Ginter as you all know. But somehow an A&G card of Annie Oakley works. This does not work. It reminds me of sitting in my 9th grade history class, trying desperately to stay awake.

2. B.J. Upton, Upper Deck Artifacts. If you ask me, Artifacts should get the heave-ho before X. At least X is colorful. This is just plain pointless. Way to dull down an exciting player like Upton.

1. Jon Papelbon, Upper Deck Masterpieces. Ugh. Yes, Papelbon is excitable. Yes, he can be obnoxious. Yes, he has struck this pose a time or two. But did you have to make him look like a screaming, crapping leprechaun for all eternity?

Well, I sold those cards, didn't I? Yet, I bet some of you still want them anyway, don't you? So go ahead and leave your guesses. The good stuff is coming up tomorrow.