Wednesday, March 30, 2016

P-Town Tom: #SuperTrader

Jaybarkerfan started the SuperTrader concept earlier this year as a way for folks to have built-in trade partners for almost every team. JBF included me in the group as the resident Brewer receiver, and I was quite happy to be included. I mean, unlike many folks on that list, I have only been in the trading game online here for not much more than 18 months at this point.

Whether the appellation of "Super Trader" should be appended to my name is a reasonable question to ask. For whatever reason, I find myself thinking like I'm Wile E. Coyote being introduced as "SuperGenius" instead...always losing and never able to catch the speedy roadrunner.

Then I saw this recently, and my whole thought process changed:

So, let's talk about a real SuperGenius -- and SuperTrader too. His name is Tom and he hails from Peoria, Illinois. The man is incredible. He's a math teacher, a coach, and a food lover too! Seriously, Tom juggles so many different roles and hats that I wonder how he has time both to put together the great packages that he sends out and also write such a good blog.

Speaking of the great packages, Tom dropped one in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago now.  Here are the highlights, set to Peoria music because, well, I need music.

Mudvayne: Happy?

Mudvayne formed in Bloomington, but is now apparently from Peoria. It is not a band I've listened to at all. Having listened to this song, I can tell you that it's okay, but I'm not a huge fan. It just doesn't sound any different from any one of a number of different bands. 

On the other hand, Tom sent me a bunch of great oddballs, such as the three cards here from Baseball Cards magazine/Sports Cards Price Guide magazine and the Topps UK Mini of Paul Molitor.

REO Speedwagon: Time for Me to Fly, written by Gary Richrath 

REO Speedwagon -- I think the kids these days would call this "Dad Rock," maybe -- featured Gary Richrath on the lead guitar until 1989, when he left the band. Richrath wrote this song in 1981.

Richrath reunited with them briefly in December of 2013 in Bloomington, Illinois for a benefit concert for families in central Illinois affected by a massive tornado.  That would be the last time that he played with REO Speedwagon, as he passed away on September 13, 2015 at the age of 65.

After that fairly depressing story, we need some happiness and celebrations.

The Nyjer Morgan card was featured on a Sports Illustrated cover in 2011. Ah, those halcyon days of 2011 -- before Braun was busted for steroids and when the team was at its best before Prince Fielder waddled out of town to greener bank accounts.

The Forecast: And We Return to Our Roots

Before this post, I'd never heard of the Forecast. Now that I've heard this song, they sort of remind me of Evanescence crossed with Jimmy Eat World. There's a strong female vocal that definitely sounds like Amy Lee's powerful sounds, with the rest of the vocals and sound being sort of typical indie rock from that mid-00s period.

Speaking of returning to roots, I'm pretty sure that Topps only has photos of Ryan Braun hitting that feature his eyes bulging out of his head. Or, maybe that's just another side effect of the steroids?

Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys: I Write The Songs

Bruce Johnston joined the Beach Boys in 1965, taking future country music star Glen Campbell's place as the touring bass player and vocalist (filling in for Brian WIlson) for the band. Though he didn't write any noteworthy songs for the Beach Boys, he won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year for writing "I Write the Songs" for Barry Manilow.

If the fact that Manilow did not write "I Write the Songs" isn't ironic, I am unsure what is. Seriously, that makes me laugh, because for the longest time I was pretty sure Barry wrote the songs.

He said he did, right?

Thankfully, the package that Tom sent me had two guys who (hopefully) wrote their own names on their cards. There's a Bowman signature from Eric Arnett and an in-person or TTM signature of former Clemson Tiger and 1987 First Round Draft pick Bill Spiers. I was glad to add the Spiers because I don't think I ever saw young William signing autographs in 1989 or so when I was still chasing them at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Dan Fogelberg: Leader of the Band

Fogelberg was always way too folky for my tastes. He's a good singer and a very good musician, but I just never really liked his music. Fogelberg died very young -- just 56 years old -- in December of 2007.

And now, for something completely different:

It's a Trent Clark mini-collection! Clark was a first round pick for the Brewers in 2015, selected 15th overall despite being identified as anything between the 7th to 10th best player in the draft. Kile McDaniel of Fangraphs called Clark "the best pure hitter in the draft." This article on Fansided's "Reviewing the Brew" labeled Clark the Brewers third-best prospect. 

His performance last year supported the hype. In 43 games in the Arizona Rookie League, Clark slashed .309/.422/.865 (WOW) with 1 HR, 16 RBI, and 20 SB (WOW).  Then, at Helena in the Pioneer League in 12 more games, he slashed .310/.431/.381 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 8 more steals. The kid even hit for the cycle in Arizona.

He may only be a future left fielder based on an average to so-so arm. Some reviews say his stolen bases come as much from his baseball intelligence as it does from pure speed, and they compare Clark as in the mold of Christian Yelich.

That's a fine upside.

Many thanks again go out to P-Town Tom for the great cards. 

As for Peoria's music, though, well...y'all be the judges.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Plug and Cool Surprise from Angus

I spend a lot of my free time -- in between posting here, working, reading blogs, and trying to be a good husband -- on Twitter. Often, it's the first thing I read in the morning (usually to catch up on what is new in the world of European soccer) and many times it's the last thing I actively read before playing a mindless game of "Civilization Revolutions" on my iPad and nodding off to sleep.

A few weeks ago, I got a new follower on Twitter called @CardMavin. Card Mavin is a completely free website that gives people a realistic view on what their cards are worth based on real time eBay sales and listings. Perhaps, in the not-too-distant future, the site may include aggregation of information on sales -- or at least asking prices -- from COMC, Sportlots, Just Commons, etc.  That probably will take some intellectual property rights agreements with those sites, I'd suppose.

That said, the folks behind Card Mavin reached out to me and told me how much they enjoyed my writing. After I asked if they had the right "Tony" from the blog world, and after I asked if they had actually read my blog -- oddly, the answer was yes on both counts -- I was sufficiently flattered enough to be receptive to their approach for me to write a guest blog. 

After a couple of weeks where work conspired to keep me both busy and lacking in inspiration, finally I sat down and hacked out my post: "Advice for Getting Back into Card Collecting." Thanks to trying to be brief -- which, as many of you know, is more of a challenge for me than trying to extend a post to a particular length -- I set forth a list of three pieces of advice for folks considering whether they should get into collecting or back into collecting. 

Please take a read of my thoughts there and provide some advice of your own. And, while you're there, check out how CardMavin works and give feedback on Twitter to @CardMavin.

Okay, now that I have plugged one of the first appearances of my writing that does not involve writing about construction law (I am, in fact, general editor of a book published 15 years ago and I am a general editor as well of a book that is in the works now about trial practice in construction cases...seriously), I need to give full props to the blogosphere's Canadian Cleveland Browns fan, Angus of Dawg Day Cards.

First, he has watched as his team has actually improved its QB situation with RGIII, a QB who caused his own offensive line to hate him in DC -- to the point where they hardly helped him up after sacks and whose seeming refusal to take any blame for mistakes rubbed everyone the wrong way. I mean, after Johnny Manziel, perhaps everyone who is a sentient being is an upgrade at QB, but when people from around the league come out and say that you are a "jerk" who "didn't stay humble", you know you have some problems.

Still, as a Browns fan as Angus is, he found the bright side of things and noted that having a guy like RGIII for the here and now while the team tries to build isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Is there a comparable situation in all of the Big 4 sports to being a Browns fan? I mean, at least in baseball, most every team has gotten to the postseason in the last 15 years.

I really feel for Angus on that level. It is close to the situation in Milwaukee from 1993 through 2006, when the team just sucked and sucked and sucked and it didn't look like there was any plan in place under the Seligs other than, "Let's suck as bad as possible so that we can prove our point that small market teams can't compete."

Amongst all this, Angus still finds time to sprinkle sunshine around to all of us bloggers. 

I've seen two others of these now around the blog world, and I'm happy that Angus sent one my way. The nine discs on the Milwaukee Brewers "Triple Play Funmeal" include Robin Yount, Sal Bando, BIll Travers, Sixto Lezcano, Von Joshua, Charlie Moore, Jim Slaton, Jerry Augustine, and the cleft-chinned Eduardo Rodriguez. 

Even without seeing the 1977 copyright date, I could have dated this item to that very year for a couple of reasons. First, if this had been issued in 1976, Hank Aaron would have been included. Second, Sal Bando would not have been included in 1976 because he signed as a free agent from Oakland after 1976. Finally, it could not be from the 1978 season because the Brewers simply cut Von Joshua after spring training in 1978 and they traded Jim Slaton after the 1977 season to Detroit for Ben Oglivie. Slaton then re-signed with the Brewers after the 1978 season.

Angus, many thanks once again for the fantastic surprise you sent my way.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cards from #SuperTrader Angels in Order

It's taken a while for me to have time to sit down and write post #501. I had my fantasy baseball auction yesterday, which meant that Friday night was spent preparing. Then, yesterday afternoon, I spent the better part of an hour entering the rosters on the league website. Yeah, we're kind of old school, what with using just spreadsheets, pens, and paper for our draft.

After that, my wife and I took a little one-hour road trip out to Athens, Georgia, for a special birthday dinner. If y'all are into the whole food TV phenomenon, you've probably heard of Hugh Acheson, the Georgian by way of Canada, whose restaurants in Georgia were on the forefront here of the the "farm-to-table" movement about 10 years ago. His first restaurant, and still his flagship, is called 5&10, and it's in a really cool, rustic house just on the edge of one part of the Greek row in Athens.

So, after that fun-filled day, I really didn't have the chance to write anything yesterday. But, being able to wait until today was fairly fortuitous because I get to post about a Super Trader package the day after the package I sent out was highlighted.

Before the SuperTraders group was put together, I had traded with Tom from Angels in Order once before. He had dropped a huge package of cards on me in the past, and this one was similar -- lots of great stuff.  

I thought about not putting this post to music. Then, I realized that a post on Easter talking about cards from Angels in are some songs that I can honestly say I've never heard before.

Song 1: Going on an Easter Egg Hunt

This band called "The Kiboomers" is the brainchild of two educators named Sherry Segal and Wendy Wiseman. They draw their inspiration from the internet and their own classroom experiences as early childhood teachers to come up with thematic songs to help young children learn. I guess the highly repetitive, simple lyrics stick with kids sort of in the same way that the highly repetitive, simply lyrics of The Police stick with adults.

And don't give me a hard time about that last line. Listen to any Police song. They are great musicians, but they are very repetitive. In college, we used to joke about playing "The Police: The Drinking Game." Basically you just need one Police song and about three beers, because you'll finish all of them. Then, whenever the Police say a particular lyric in a particular song, you drink. For example, in "Message in a Bottle," you drink every time they say "SOS".

Don't think you're in the clear until the end of the song. Make sure you drink for all of them. 

Annnnnyway, I digress.

Tom sent me some great Brewers cards from Bowman:

Some pretty parallels there. A Purple Reed and Gold Braun, Greinke, and a Jose Duran. It's like an Easter Egg Hunt!

Duran lasted all of two seasons with the Brewers organization as a 6th round pick out of Texas A&M in 2008. He hit a consistent .221 at both Helena in 2008 and at Wisconsin in the Midwest league in 2009 to go with his 10 errors at 2nd in 27 games at Helena and his 11 errors at third in 41 games at Wisconsin. Yikes. The Brewers cut him loose, and Duran played independent league ball in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Song 2: Easter, from "Five Mystical Songs"

Legendary English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (pronounced "Rafe Vawn Williams" if you're not familiar) is certainly the most noteworthy English composer of the late 19th/early 20th century. He took English symphonic music away from the influences of Germanic composers like Bach and Wagner and interjected English folk music into the symphonic realm. He studied for three months with Maurice Ravel -- known as a very difficult man to learn from due to his being a very "demanding taskmaster", as Wikipedia puts it. I played a couple of his pieces while in high school symphonic band, but I never played Easter.

To go with this pastoral masterpiece, here are three cards Tom sent to me from Leaf Preferred. 

I think Leaf Preferred is one of those products that wanted to be high end and portray itself as deserving of masterpiece status. But, let's be honest: very few baseball cards -- indeed, very few pieces of art generally -- attain the status of masterpiece. While these are nice, I wouldn't call them stunning or masterful.

Song 3: "Easter Bunny Dubstep"

I haven't the foggiest idea. Probably the less said about this, the better.

It's unfair to put Upper Deck cards in association with whatever that was/is/will never be, since I genuine tend to like Upper Deck's photo selection, cropping, and designs.  But, something has to follow that so it might as well be something much more understandable.

Greg Vaughn looks like he's the Brewer version of the pink Energizer bunny. Fernando Vina's bat has a pinkish tint to it. 

That's all I've got here. These are good photos generally, though the Baseball Heroes thing got old pretty quickly -- especially with having almost enough colored parallels to make Easter Egg Dubstep make sense.

Song 4: "Easter Parade"

Back to something far more traditional. I recall hearing this song regularly as a kid. Though I am pretty sure it was not this particular version, it's truly a standard from the 1940s crooner era -- complete with the enjoyable gender roles that being from the 1940s entails.

Getting to the standards means going for the meat of the package that Tom sent that I needed -- lots and lots of Fleer!

Everything from old 1980s and early 1990s Fleer Box sets -- oh how I miss those! -- to Star Stickers, E-Motion, Ultra, Tradition, and basic "Fleer" anywhere from 1986 through 2007 when Upper Deck took the Fleer name for one go-round before burying it somewhere.

In looking at these cards, I am wondering if we as collectors are longing for the days when the photos of the players looked more like the photos we could take with our cameras -- the "real film" days. The rise of the digital camera and the camera phone truly democratized photography. Nearly anyone can get a pretty decent photo these days -- merely by accident, even, if they snap enough photos -- so Topps has gone to doctoring up the photos to make the players appear more supernatural. It's sort of saying, "Take that, common person. You can't get that pitcher-in-pain-throwing-a-pitch shot quite like we can!"

Song 5: Peter Cottontail

When I think of my childhood and Easter music, it wouldn't be complete without this Gene Autry song. That's very appropriate considering how long the old cowboy owned the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels -- from their very beginning in 1961 until he sold a controlling interest in the team to Disney in the 1995-1996 timeframe (and sold the rest of the shares after his death in 1998 at the age of 91).

Just one Topps card to highlight from the package from Tom -- this Cracker Jack card of Wes Helms. It seems appropriately old school enough -- even in the faux old school sense -- to match Gene Autry.

Tom, thank YOU for SuperTrading!

Have a Happy Easter, everyone.