Thursday, June 22, 2017

Finding Lots on an eBay Kick

I have not been going to card shows lately, so I've spent a little time here and there on eBay looking for potential bargains. I've been lucky enough to find a few, so here's the result of my shopping binges.

I'm in the mood for some new music, so let's take a look at what's on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart. Let's start with what I envision might be the very essence of a Heatseeker album: an album by an under-30 millennial guy with a man-bun.

I'm guessing that Avriel & The Sequoias are so high on the chart because Avriel is the soon-to-be-former member of the a cappella band Pentatonix. The song "Sweet Adeline" is the most upbeat song on the EP called Sage And Stone. It's not a bad song. It is a folksy sound -- very much along the whole "Americana" sound championed (ironically) by Mumford & Sons, among others. 

Apropos of nothing, here's four Ryan Braun cards I picked up. The Silver 2016 Archives parallel is serial numbered 13 of 199 and the 2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Green Fortune Teller Parallel Insert is numbered 40 of 99. 

I started talking last time I posted about how I created rules for my player collections that have been a bit difficult to live up to. It's okay that they are, to be fair -- I mean, what's the fun in making the chase simple? But I'm not in any hurry to come up with a new player to collect of this current bunch of new talent. 

Part of me really likes Brett Phillips because he's just a cool, laid-back kid. The downside there is that he is just as likely to end up traded as he is on the Brewers. I've considered Orlando Arcia as well. He might have a career based around his glove alone if recent evidence is anything to rely on. 

But the real point here is that everyone on the current team other than Braun and Jimmy Nelson have barely spent much time on the Brewers. To wit: of position players, the most appearances after Braun's 1384 games over 11 seasons belongs to Hernán Pérez, who has appeared in 280 games in his Milwaukee Career. The pitcher with the most appearances on the team is Wily Peralta with 130, followed by Corey Knebel with 120, and the starter with the most appearances is Nelson with 94. 

So, again, I'm in no hurry for that very reason -- there are the cautionary tales of both Jean Segura and Wily Peralta -- and, frankly, I kind of like being able to cross a set off my list after getting a single team set.

The Number 2 album on the Heatseekers chart is from a Canadian band that's hardly a new artist. The band is called The Birthday Massacre, and they have been around since 1999. They were formed in London, Ontario, and are now based in Toronto. According to their Wikipedia page, they have "utilized the internet throughout their career and are an example of a musical group that has evolved alongside file sharing, and advancements in audio streaming capabilities."

Their whole story is pretty interesting. They even refer to themselves as the "black sheep" of the Canadian music scene. Their music is pretty cool. It's got a goth feel to it. I get a lot of a feel from the music that is similar to New Order or Depeche Mode, but only if they had a female singer and added more of an industrial feel to the music. 

I like it.


The Braun 2016 Bowman's Best above came in a four-card lot of 2016 Bowman's Best that included these three cards: Josh Hader a/k/a Haderade, Corey Ray, and Orlando Arcia. These are all guys I could see becoming possible PCs down the road. Ray made the Southern League (High-A) All-Star team as a Carolina Mudcat, along with Isan Diaz, Jake Gatewood, Nate Griep, Freddy Peralta, and Cody Ponce. Of that group, only Diaz (trade with the D-backs) and Peralta (trade with Seattle for Adam Lind) came over in trades. 

Number 3 on the Heatseekers chart comes from a pair of sisters from Muscle Shoals, Alabama called The Secret Sisters. While some sources compare them to the Everly Brothers, their sound to me -- the way they harmonize in particular and especially in this song -- reminds me more of old school sound like The Andrews Sisters rather than anything more recent. 

Other songs on this album, such as "Mississippi," sound much more like a demo tape for Miranda Lambert. By this, I mean there is an earthier sound than on "Tennessee River," but it never reaches that overproduced sound common in Nashville these days. I prefer this sound to the first song. Definitely.

These two cards are enough for tonight. On the left, I was able to find a really good price on the short-print photo variation of Jonathan Lucroy's 2016 Topps card, so I snapped it up for my team collection. On the right, we have Robin Yount in his Dodgers' softball uniform in the 1983 Donruss-style cards. At least Panini got the size of the "D" right this year. I still can't stand how discolored they have to make the cards to avoid getting sued, though.

Thanks for stopping by to read this, and let me know what you think of these three heatseekers!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Breakdown a Trade Post

As I mentioned in my post about the "Big Fun Game" and my winning a 1953 Topps card of Hoyt Wilhelm, I planned almost immediately to trade the Wilhelm card away to a Hoyt collector. That Hoyt collector was Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown, who reached out to me almost immediately after the game went final and asked whether I had planned to keep the Wilhelm.

I told him the truth -- "absolutely not" and mentioned that I knew he collected so I told him I'd send it to him. In return, he was kind enough to send me a great package of cards, including one that is really tough to find. Let's get into the cards. As usual, I can't just make it about cards, so let's dig into some of Gavin's favorite bands for some music.

The band Mercury Rev had a couple of albums that hit the Heatseekers Albums chart here in the US, and they had one album that was certified gold in the UK (1998's Deserter's Songs). This song, "Dark Is Rising," is very orchestral sounding -- very grand and grandiose at the same time. 

I think I need to listen to this band more. I vaguely recall a song or two of theirs from the mid-1990s time period. I was intrigued, though, when I read this description of the band from The Guardian's Music Blog: "a rarity in indie rock: a band who have continually evolved their sound, pushing at the boundaries of what rock music actually means over 25 years, borrowing from jazz, funk, doo-wop, techno, folk, and more along the way." 

I'll start with a somewhat elusive card set: the 2007 Topps Co-Signers set. This is such a strange set. When I'm looking for cards -- whether online or in person at shows -- I rarely see these and never think to look for them. So, getting one out of the blue was excellent. 

However, unlike Mercury Rev, I'm not all that intrigued by this card. It just looks like a mistake in coloration to have Hall all in red -- or it's an unappreciated gimmick. Hard pass on this, except for the ones I have to get.

On to something more familiar: The Toadies and their song, "Possum Kingdom." This is from the golden years of 1990s alternative -- 1994-1995, of course. I feel lucky, in a way, that I took a year off from school during that time (after graduating college and before starting law school) and that I could enjoy the music that was out that year. 

As one of the recent commenters on YouTube said, "I wanna go back to the 90s, wear a short sleeved shirt over a long sleeved one, grow my hair to my shoulders, listen to music like this, and watch Mallrats." 

Mid-1990s music was really good. Of course, I will also agree wholeheartedly with the fact that there is good music getting put out all the time. I find stuff from the 1970s that I haven't heard either in ages or ever that blows me away. I find stuff from last year that I haven't heard yet, and it really hits me in all the right places. 

I really love music.

Being busy drinking beer, chasing women, smoking too many cigarettes, sleeping in late on weekends, and spending money on beer, women, and music meant that I did not make time in the 1990s for baseball card collecting. Perhaps if I had been less interested in any one of those things, I might have made time for my collection. Probably not, though.

If I had, I would have loved grabbing these Action Packed cards that were issued in 1993 as a continuation of the first series from 1992. It does seem a bit strange to see Cecil Cooper in a set along with Honus Wagner, Mel Ott, and Walter Johnson, but it does not seem strange to see him in a checklist next to Ron Cey and Dave Parker. 

I like it.

Here's a nice couple of songs from a band called Three Mile Pilot. Three Mile Pilot is a San Diego band who did this show on a public radio station called KEXP in Seattle. In a nice little coincidence in light of the fact that Gavin likes this band, the DJ at the beginning even mentions that 3MP would be playing Portland the next night.

I wonder if Gavin went to that show.

This show is about 25 minutes long. To me, the lead singer sounds like a West Coast version of New Orleans legend Alex McMurtry. He has that rougher hewn voice -- reaching for notes, pushing his tone up to meet the pitch he is going for after starting perhaps a half-step (that's a music term) lower. In some respects, it turns what starts almost as a minor chord into a tonic/major chord. Or, I may just have forgotten all my music education from 23+ years ago.

That's possible too.

Matt LaPorta was supposed to be a stud -- the next one off the Brewers mid-2000s conveyer belt of advanced hitters to follow Ryan Braun. LaPorta was a Gator, and the Brewers drafted him after his senior year. LaPorta is now a mortgage loan officer in Tampa with SunTrust Bank. He left baseball thanks to two hip surgeries that gave him tons of pain to even walk. 

I wish him well, except for his whole Gator thing.

Whenever a song's YouTube introduction reads: "The story is a common one. The son of a Portuguese fisherman rediscovers punk rock and rock & roll and moves to Tijuana in order to find musicians whose instincts haven't been replaced by the sedate notion of what it takes to be successful in the world of professional music making."

Of course. That happens all the time. 

I feel like Rocket from the Crypt made a few appearances in Athens while I was in law school there. I have nothing to back that feeling up other than knowing that their band name sounds familiar, but the song "On a Rope" does not.

This Ryan Braun Bowman from 2016 is similar. It's a parallel, maybe. Or maybe not. I can't tell sometimes with Bowman what is a parallel and what isn't. In fact, it's becoming more and more difficult to discern between base and parallels these days. At least it feels like it is to me. 

At least Braun's bulging eye look isn't as prominent on this card as on others.

I loved this song in 1995/1996. I could sing all the lyrics without any problem, and I actively sought this song out. In fact, as I type this, I'm rocking back and forth in my chair almost involuntarily. 

This song was Hum's biggest hit, reaching #11 on the Modern Rock charts in 1995 and #28 on the Mainstream charts. See -- there it is again...the fact that 1995 has yet another great song.

If you have never heard of Hum, they are from Champaign, Illinois -- where the University of Illinois is located. According to Hum's Wikipedia page, the band has reunited and broken up regularly since 2000 -- coming back together for one-off shows in various places around the country including in Chicago and Atlanta.

A song this good deserves an excellent card, as does the last card of the post. This is a Topps Heritage Color Swap variation from the 2015 set. To tell you how difficult these are to find is easy: there is not a single one for sale on eBay at the present time and, in fact, there aren't even any recent sales for the card.

Gavin, thank you so much for the great trade. I hope that the cards I sent to you were enough to match this great package.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Buying From Brent

Tomorrow, thankfully, the election in my House of Representatives District -- the now infamous GA-06 about which every national political commentator suddenly has become an expert regarding demographics, voting tendencies, geography, and restaurants -- will come to a close. At least I hope so. It would be a terrible trick if the Russian hackers decided to intervene in the election and create a recount of some sort.

Just thinking about it makes me angry and think of punk rock. And yes, the Problem is You!

Perhaps it is funny, and perhaps it is appropriate, that I've only mentioned The Sex Pistols twice on this blog -- and the most recent of them was to highlight my purchase of 2016 Heritage from Brent Williams of Brent & Becca. I've taken the tack this year of finding more team sets on eBay to avoid some of the problems of putting together team sets through random finding at card shows. 

This time around, I'm going to show the result of a couple of purchase packages from Brent. Let's start with 2017 Finest:

While this looks like I bought two of everything, rest assured that the top three cards are the base cards and the bottom three cards are Refractors. I like the use of the gold on the card, but man -- these look like they were infected with that JPEG disease that haunts the base set this year: that Topps had its designers aim for something that would look good on the Bunt App and if it translates to physical cards, well, so be it.  

As an aside, if you would have told me when the season started that (a) Ryan Braun would have played 30 games by June 19; and, (b) Jonathan Villar would also be on the DL as of June 19 and be slashing .213/.283/.342 in 250 plate appearances, I would have guessed that the Brewers would be somewhere around Phillies territory. It's really been a great ride already for the team. Here's hoping that the ride can continue for a while.

Appropriately for showing Topps Finest, here's a song by The Boo Radleys called "The Finest Kiss." The Boo Radleys were definitely in that "shoegazing" thing that was popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s in England. Their best known song in the US is probably "There She Goes," which is actually a cover of a song by The La's but which the Radleys covered for the introduction to the movie So I Married An Axe Murder.

Earlier this year, I also bought a master set (probably) from Brent of Topps Bunt. Actually, I bought a little extra because, after all, I have to have two Brauns. I have been trying to place where I have seen that photo of Yount and have been unable to do it. I know I've seen it somewhere though.

When I got back into collecting in 2013/2014, I decided to have bunches of player collections to represent all the different years of the Brewers franchise. As part of that, I made the rule for myself that I needed two of each card -- one for the PC, one for the team set. As I have collected longer, I have started to realize what a fool's errand creating my collection that way is. I mean, it's not easy to find one card serial numbered to 250 from 2002 -- not to mention two. I'm starting to reconsider more and more that position. I may end up scaling it back just to base sets. 

That, or I may just decide that I want to collect all the cards from the 1980s. That appeals to me too. That would be a fun pursuit.

Needing music, I put "Bunt" into the search bar at YouTube and found this band called BUNT. (song is called "Coming Home") that sounds a lot like the song "Wake Me Up" by Avicii to me. There are definitely sound qualities within the song's bridge that strike me as very similar. So, if you are into a danceable sound like Avicii, you might like this song.

Next up: Archives. The Brewers pretty much are getting the same three players in all the sets these days: Ryan Braun, Orlando Arcia, and Jonathan Villar. I get it, of course -- the Brewers were not very good last year, turned over half their roster, and traded away any/all the mainstays that might otherwise engender being included in a set. 

Since the beginning of the season, of course, several players have emerged. For instance, there is former Korean Baseball star Eric Thames -- who is a hell of a lot more chill than I am about all the times he has been tested for drugs/steroids -- whose numbers here are pretty damn impressive: .265/.399/.607 for an OPS of 1.007. There is the Mayor of Ding Dong City, Travis Shaw, about whom I was cautious in light of his .251/.312/.442 slash line in Boston. It's still early days for him, but he, too, has looked fairly good and has learned to take advantage of the hitters' park that is Miller Park. 

Throw in pretty good performances from Hernan Perez, Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, and the completely out-of-character run that Eric Sogard has been on, along with Manny Pina's play behind the plate and Jesus Aguilar's ability to play first while Thames is in the outfield, and you can see the real issue here is simply the fact that no one has heard of these guys. Now if only the firestarters in the bullpen would put down the torches, the team would be in even better shape.

I'm starting to think that there is a band with a name to match about anything I can think of at this point. This band is called Archive. Perhaps not surprisingly, they, too, are in the trip hop/shoegaze arena of music. To be fair, I had never heard of them before my searching today, but I feel like I should have. Their songs are well written and are driven by lyrics. That's a sure way to get my attention.

The final cards I got from Brent were randomly dispersed amongst various sets. We have the "Fortune Teller" tallboy insert from Gypsy Queen as well as the printing-mistake-made-parallel blackless version of Braun's GQ card. There's the Mauricio Dubon autograph from Topps Pro Debut in 2017 at the top, and then the Isan Diaz "Bowman Scouts' Top 100" insert from Bowman.

I'm still looking for a bunch of those "Top 100" inserts, if you might be willing to trade those to me.

Since, thankfully, there is not a song to go with "Pro Debut", I figured I'd go with "Fortune Teller" by The Rolling Stones. 

And I will not let an opportunity to post a Van Morrison song go past me, with his song "Gypsy Queen" popping up. Again, let's be fair: a song called "Bowman Scouts' Top 100" would suck.

Brent is a good guy to do business with, and I'll probably buy more from him in the future. If only he wouldn't save all the good Brewers cards for someone else, I'd buy much more from him.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Meet the Brewers #38: Al Downing

Incredible as it seems, the 1970 Brewers reached the 38th player deployed for the team before the end of June. That seems incredible to me, at least. 1970 was a strange season, too, for the man who was Brewer #38 -- Al Downing -- as well. Downing came to the Brewers in a trade with the Oakland A's along with Brewer #34, Tito Francona, on June 11, yet Downing did not make his Milwaukee debut until June 28. That game was a disaster for Downing; he started the second game of a doubleheader against Oakland and did not make it out of the first inning.

1971 Topps
Alphonso Erwin Downing was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey. A very good biography of him can be found on the SB Nation Yankees blog, Pinstripe Alley. Downing became a Yankee after spending one year at Rider University. The Yankees signed Downing on the recommendation and advice of former Negro Leaguer Bill Yancy. His first Spring Training in still-segregated Florida in 1961 must have been eye opening to the New Jersey native. This is not to say that he did not deal with discrimination in New Jersey, but the fact that he could not stay at the same hotel with his white teammates must have been incredibly difficult to deal with for him.

Despite the rather rude introduction, Downing did not spend much time in the minor leagues -- totalling only 59 games in the minors over his entire career and with 5 of those games coming in 1968 as he worked on recovering from an injury he suffered in the latter part of 1967

1971 O-Pee-Chee
Downing's time with the Yankees was up and down. He struggled with control early in his career -- leading the league in walks issued in 1964 with 120 in 244 innings -- but he paired that with being a big strikeout pitcher -- leading the league in strikeouts in that same 1964 season with 217. He had swing-and-miss stuff, from all indications, and only in his final season in the majors did he ever allow more than one hit per inning.

Downing was an All-Star in 1967 thanks to stellar work in the early part of that season. He pitched the 9th and 10th innings of that game (which extended to 15 innings before Tony Perez hit a game-winning homer off Catfish Hunter in the top of the 15th and Tom Seaver shut down the AL All-Stars in the bottom of that inning for the save). In his two innings of work, Downing retired Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Dick Allen, and Bill Mazeroski while surrendering hits to Jim Wynn and Ernie Banks.

As I mentioned above, however, 1970 was a strange season for Downing for a number of reasons -- but first and foremost because he was no longer a Yankee. According to news reports at the time (The Sporting News), the Yankees were looking for a right-handed hitter to play first base -- Ralph Houk claimed that the team was trying to boost its power hitting -- so the Yankees traded with Oakland for 10-homer-hitting Danny Cater (along with a minor-league outfielder named Ossie Chavarria). In that trade, the A's received Downing and catcher Frank Fernandez (who was made surplus to requirements by the emergence of Thurman Munson).

Dell Today's 1971 Sticker (from the Dodgers team book)
Downing did not get much of an opportunity in Oakland. At the time of his trade in early June, he had appeared in just ten of Oakland's 57 games. He had been dropped from the starting rotation after a bad start on May 6 and fell out of favor with the A's. As The Sporting News characterized the trade that sent him to Milwaukee as seeming to be a rip-off of sorts:
The trade that sent Tito Francona and Al Downing to the Brewers for Steve Hovley was a swap that exchanged a 24-year-old .280 hitter who can play all three outfield positions for a 36-year-old pinch hitter who might retire after this year and a pitcher who wasn't being used at all recently.
Indeed, that is exactly what it looked like at the time. If Hovley hadn't been squarely fifth in line in the Oakland outfield behind Felipe Alou, Rick Monday, Reggie Jackson, and Tommy Davis and if Hovley hadn't hit .190/.229/.200 after the trade, that is. 

Of course, Downing's record wasn't exactly great in Milwaukee either. He walked more guys than he struck out -- 59 walks and 53 strikeouts in 94-1/3 innings. As a result, Frank Lane did not hesitate to ship Downing out to the Los Angeles Dodgers in February of 1971 in exchange for Andy Kosco.

1994 Miller Brewing Commemorative Set
I said above that 1970 was an odd season for Downing. That is because Al Downing spent 9 seasons with the Yankees and 7 with the Dodgers. Sandwiched in between is that awkward 1970 season with Oakland and Milwaukee. 

Getting out of Milwaukee was great for Downing's career. He appeared to be rejuvenated on the West Coast. Indeed, 1971 was Downing's best season on surface statistics. He threw 262-1/3 innings for the Dodgers and finished with a 20-9 record and a 2.68 ERA. He also led the league in shutouts with five. Those stats were good enough to garner him a third-place finish in the Cy Young voting -- though Downing's season was nowhere near as good as the guys in front of him (Fergie Jenkins and Tom Seaver). The effort in 1971 led the writers to award him the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award.

That 1971 season -- along with his 1967 All-Star Game -- was the pinnacle of Downing's career. Most people of my generation and younger probably know Downing more as the guy who gave up Hank Aaron's 715th home run in 1974 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. After he retired from baseball after the 1977 season, he worked as a radio broadcaster for the Dodgers for several years as well as putting in a season on radio with the Atlanta Braves in 2000. He's now retired and comes back to Yankee Stadium on a regular basis for their Old-Timers Day. In fact, he's scheduled to be at the 71st annual version of the event on June 25. 

As for the baseball card aspects, Al Downing appeared on four total cards as a Brewer -- the ones shown above. Ironically, he appears as a Brewer and is listed as a Brewer on just the one card -- the 1971 Topps card above -- while being listed as a Dodger on two cards showing him as a Brewer. Then, when it came time for the Miller Brewing Commemorative set in 1994, the Brewers and Miller could only find a photo of him with the Dodgers. I have the 1971 Topps card and the 1994 Miller card, but not the 1971 O-Pee-Chee or the Dell Today's 1971 Baseball Sticker.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The JBF Big Fun Game

Back at the end of April and into early May, Jaybarkerfan a/k/a Wes a/k/a Willinghammer Rising (yes, he wants ALL your Josh Willinghams) resurrected a game that started before I started blogging called The Big Fun Game. I never got to know Napkin Doon, but everyone who knows him really likes him, but he was the originator (as best I can tell) of the game. It's Big Fun!

Did any band have more fun in the late 1970s and early 1980s than Kool & The Gang?

And it was really fun. Definitely. I was near the bottom of the list, so by the time the choices got to me I didn't have many options. Other than the mystery box -- which got stolen three times by pick #7 -- and the Mookie Wilson jersey that was shut down shortly after, I was good with taking my chances on just a roll of the dice. I chose Lot #11, and what do you know -- it was a real winner!

A second year card from the 1953 Topps set of a Hall of Famer whose major league career didn't start until he was nearly thirty years old and, then, lasted until 15 days shy of his 50th birthday is a win in my book for sure! Now, to be clear, I am not going to keep this card. As much as I do love Hoyt Wilhelm for those reasons I just shared and the fact that he was the first pitcher ever to appear in over 1000 games (15 others have done it since, including former Brewers Jesse Orosco (1st all time, 1252 games), Dan Plesac (7th), LaTroy Hawkins (10th), and Trevor Hoffman (11th)), this card will be heading off in a trade to a Hoyt collector.

As is always the case with Wes, though, he did not stop with Hoyt. He was kind enough to slip some Brewers into that envelope:

J.J. Hardy will be thought of in later years rightfully as an Oriole. The Brewers traded him to the Twins to get Carlos Gomez. The Twins then decided that they did not like having a competent shortstop and sent him to the Orioles for someone called Jim Hoey and minor leaguer (and Vandy guy) Brett Jacobson. Hoey made 26 appearances for the 2011 Twins and was last seen in baseball in the Atlantic League in 2013; he's now a tech consultant in San Francisco with OSI Consulting. Jacobson also called it a career in 2013 and has since moved back to Nashville and become a Sales Manager for a realtor.

A couple of Topps Total cards helped cushion the package as well. We have P/OF/PH Brooks Kieschnick (now a medical distributor for spinal implants) and Gary Bennett (now in sales with Smith & Nephew Orthopaedics in Chicago).

LinkedIn is totally a fun way to catch up with baseball players, by the way. For example, Jeffrey Hammonds recommended Bennett for "Sports," as did Dave LaPoint, Choo Freeman, Cliff Politte, and Wes Chamberlain.  Kieschnick was recommended for "Medical devices" by Glendon Rusch, Kelly Gruber, Joe Slusarski, and Scipio Spinks. Fun times!

It wouldn't be a great JBF package without some love for my Brewers Hall of Famers. The piece de resistance is clearly the SP Legendary Cuts Molitor card, what with the blue pinstripe of those wonderful 1980s uniforms showing through.

The game was Big Fun. This song is godawful. It's what I imagine a musical written by millennials attempting to copy the 1980s sound would sound like. It's terrible.

So I can't end there, and thankfully neither did Wes. After all, we're only 6 weeks away from SEC Media Days, which means we are 80 days from the first NCAA College Football game!

Ramik Wilson was a stalwart for Georgia's linebacking corps in 2013 and 2014. He was a three-star recruit (according to; Rivals and ESPN put him at 4 stars) out of Tampa, Florida. The Kansas City Chiefs -- who seem to love UGA players -- selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Then, in 2016, they cut him (signed him to their practice squad) and signed Sam Barrington, whom the Packers had cut. The Chiefs quickly saw the error of their way and resigned Ramik. By the end of the year, he was starting and made 13 tackles -- including 11 solo tackles -- against the Chargers.

Gotta love Wes -- he comes through with great ideas, great cards, and great Fun every time!

Thanks, my friend. I appreciate it.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hello, 2017 Bowman

It's going to be a lazy Sunday. I can feel it already. I was half awake, as usual, from about 4:30 AM until about 6:45 AM. I started drifting back to sleep, and then *boom* a huge clap of thunder rattled around outside.

I'm awake! I'm awake!

So I got up and heard the rain just pouring down on the roof. The way my brain works, this sequence of events immediately put a song into my head.

I don't even care that I've posted this video before here, even if I try not to duplicate songs. At one point, I thought about going back and cataloging all the songs I'd posted here. Then I realized I had more important things to do with my time, like pretty much everything else I could possibly do.

So, what's on tap today? It's another one of Chris's charity case breaks from Crackin' Wax:

If you're inclined, you can watch all 3+ hours of the case break right there. 

The 2017 Bowman case break excited me. The Brewers farm system is one of the best, and (for a change) the Brewers were reasonably well represented in the prospect set. Sure, they didn't have the most cards in the prospect range -- that honor went to the Yankees, of course, with Topps's usual over-abundant love for all things Yankees...I mean, it's still Topps, after all -- but the Brewers did get six players in the set: 3B Lucas Erceg (#7 MIL prospect), P Freddy Peralta (#19), SS/2B Mauricio Dubon (#9) P Phil Bickford (#12), P Josh Hader (#3) and P Luis Ortiz (#4). 

In addition, the Brewers have 7 players in the Bowman Scouts' Top 100: Hader, Ortiz, Bickford, Corey Ray, Lewis Brinson, Trent Clark, and Isan Diaz. Throw in some chrome prospect autographs and a couple of those Scouts' Top 100 autographs in addition to a few other inserts, and I had hope for a really nice return from the case.

So, before we evaluate this case, let's look at the cards. First, the Major League base:

The Bowman brand scaled back the base cards to just 100 major leaguers. You can tell how much in advance that the checklist was put together, though, because the set featured an entirely unnecessary card for David Ortiz, whose love from Topps last year put the fawning over the New York Yankee Rookie flavor of the month to shame. So, with its usual ham-handedness, we get 7 Cubs and 7 Red Sox (and 7 Astros!) from Topps, but only 1 Red (Votto), 1 Angel (Trout), and just 3 Indians, a team I could have sworn played against the Cubs in the World Series last year.

The only Brewer missing here that has shown up in almost every other set this year is Jonathan Villar, last year's stolen base leader in the National League whose struggles at the plate during the first two months of this season have a lot of Brewers fans concerned. I can understand the concern, of course -- it's never good to have a guy slashing at .210/.284/.319 and striking out as many times (71 in 233 plate appearances) as he has. But, he did change positions to second base, and that adjustment can take away from a person's other abilities. It's not easy to change a mindset like that, and I'm sure he focused a lot on fielding in spring training this year.

Okay, let's move onto the paper prospect base cards:

Design-wise, Bowman's design this year seems to be following the trend that the Flagship has set: lots of blurry backgrounds, weird smoke/haze/fog effects on the margins of the cards, and a logo and nameplate area that appears to be designed for ease of use within the Bunt app rather than for use as a physical card. The problem with this, especially when we are talking about Bowman and its parallel-happy printing job, is that some of the parallels are nearly impossible to notice as parallels.

Such as the Silver parallel. The card on the right is the Silver parallel for Freddy Peralta and it is serial numbered to 499. The card on the left is his base card. You have to look really closely to notice that there is a silver coloration in the upper left hand corner near the Bowman logo and along the nameplate at the bottom. Or, you have to run the card under lights and move it back and forth to see the little dotted line feature that comes across far better on the scan here along the left-hand side of the card.

Unfortunately for me, this Peralta was the only Brewers parallel of any kind that came in the case. 

On to the Chrome:

During the video, every time a Chrome card showed up, the lights in Chris's house made it appear as if the card was a refractor. The Chrome parallel is really shiny this year. 

Unfortunately for me, I did not get any refractors -- only base Chrome Prospects cards.

As I mentioned above, the Brewers have seven players in the Scouts' Top 100. I didn't do very well here either:

Out of the 7, I only got 2. The collation on the boxes in this case was terrible. I actually received a total of four cards of the Brewers in this subset -- three of Trent Clark to go with the Brinson. Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm a Trent Clark fan, even if he is essentially a top trade chip with the outfield depth within the Brewer system -- but it would have been nice to get other Brewers from the subset. 

Instead, I'm now surfing eBay to look at pricing on getting the rest.

There were other inserts in the set as well:

I've mentioned this elsewhere before, but it seems like typical Topps to jam Orlando Arcia into the "2017 Rookie of the Year Favorites" subset. Why? Because Arcia is not rookie-eligible any more. Like I said about the David Ortiz card, Topps/Bowman clearly put the checklist together way too early -- I'm guessing that they started in mid-year last year -- and didn't fact check themselves after the season to make sure that everyone listed as a ROY favorite was eligible for the award.

Arcia isn't the only one is this position, either. Alex Bregman and David Dahl also exceeded the number of at-bats/days on the active roster allowed to retain rookie status. So, out of a subset of 15 players allegedly highlighting potential Rookie of the Year candidates, fully 20% of them were not actually eligible to win the award.

Well done, Bowman!

So, you've now seen what I got from this case. All in all, it was quite honestly a terrible case for me. That's not Chris's fault, obviously -- he didn't put the cards in the case. But it means that I'm going to have to hit the aftermarket pretty hard to complete my Bowman run for this year. 

That's a real shame for me.