Thursday, March 16, 2017

Quick Check In

Yeah, it's been over a week since I have had the time to write anything here. I really don't have the time to write now, but I feel like I've been neglecting my hobbies thanks to that real world work crap.

Assuming that the case on which I am working doesn't settle soon, I'll be in an arbitration all next week to top off a very busy March. I've billed about 120 hours already this month not counting the past two days.

So as not to lose touch with my blog, here's a recent eBay purchase that I got for a few bucks.


It's one of those spring training commemorative "patches," which is completely a misnomer since it's a piece of plastic or metal inside that card, not a patch. It's serial numbered 17 of 50, so it's got that going for it. Now to chase down the other parallels of this card and I'll be good.

As for a little music, for some unknown reason this song jumped into my head early this morning when trying to come up with a song that I recall from my preteen years. Watch the video. It's almost humorous how little movement there is on this stage. Also, I don't think I realized how much Linda Ronstadt looked like Pat Benatar in this video.

Finally, Steel guitar solo!


Just don't think about Tim McCarver when you see it...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Big Stick

Some surprises are bad -- you know, like the surprise that the person you thought you were dating just got engaged to someone else (not that that has happened to me, mind you). Others are good -- like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a pair of pants you haven't worn in a while.

Others, though, are so good that the only thing you can say about them is "WOW."

I had a WOW moment today. It might make you say the same.

For context:  I've been working a lot lately. Yesterday, for example, I got to the office at 6:45 AM and I didn't leave the office until 10:30 PM. I was in depositions all day (and night). Then, this morning, I got up and into the office by 6:40 and didn't leave until 6:45 PM.

My wife had made the decision a couple of weeks ago to get a present for me. Today, she decided that I had been working so hard that I needed the pick-me-up of the present that she got for me.


Yes, it's a bat. A Rawlings Adirondack Pro bat -- never used, I'm quite sure. Can you read the name on it?


Yes. Yes it is.


It's a PSA/DNA certified autographed bat from Robin Yount.

WOW.

Here's the backstory:

My wife does a lot of volunteer work for a couple of local charities, including the local art center called the Spruill Art Center. Spruill is a nonprofit center which helps provide art classes to thousands of students in the northern Atlanta area each year. Spruill enjoys the benefits of its association with the women who are members of the Spruill Guild.

Each year, the Guild has a big fundraiser bash called Artistic Affair. It's a "black-tie" (these days, it's "wear a suit") event that features a live auction and a silent auction. Every year, the Guild works to get local businesses and people to donate items of value to be auctioned off in those two auctions to raise money for the Art Center. One issue they have had in the past is that most of the items for auction while have a lean toward a particular gender lean toward feminine items -- women's jewelry, for example.

In trying to find more "masculine" items for men to bid on, this year the Guild was put into contact with a company that focuses on supplying signed sports items for consignment for charity auctions. The company is guaranteed a far lower amount of money on the sale than it might otherwise get, and the Guild will keep the rest. Some of the items up for auction this year will include a Peyton Manning-signed helmet, a Herschel Walker-signed helmet, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox autographed baseballs, and Master's Tournament flags signed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Some pretty awesome stuff.

The women with the Guild, for the most part, do not have sports fanatics for husbands. Except my wife, of course. The ladies involved know I am a baseball card collector, so my wife was nominated to work with the guy on identifying the items to put up for sale. In those discussions, the guy brought up this bat.

And now, it's mine.

Like I said during Card Chat when I mentioned that my wife often encourages me to spend more money on cards, I'm a very lucky man.


And I now carry a Big Stick.

Monday, March 6, 2017

PWEs from Two Great Friends

I feel like I need to write tonight. I'm behind on posts, behind on trades, behind on returns... it's very discouraging sometimes. Yesterday, I spent nearly 7 hours in the office preparing for depositions for tomorrow. Today, I was in meetings all day doing the same. 

When I had free time, I watched two utterly disappointing soccer games -- Manchester United's typically wasteful performance against Bournemouth (where Zlatan Ibrahimovic was shockingly bad) and Atlanta United's tough but entirely foreseeable collapse against the New York Energy Drinks -- where ATLUTD's conceding two goals in the final 15 minutes was completely expected thanks to the dead legs that the defenders had to have. As the ATL game reached the 65th minute, I was thinking, "man, why haven't we put in some fresh legs into the game?" Then I saw Kenwyne Jones stagger onto the field, and I realized that fresh legs might not help.

Anyway, my desire to write over the weekend was outweighed also by the desire to work on getting inserts/parallels into binders. I'm working on my Topps inserts and parallels and oddballs right now -- up to 1995 already! -- so I'm doing a lot of placeholder making and not a lot of cataloging. But, it means I'm getting closer to having "true" want lists. 

Today, though, to break my non-writing streak, I have two PWEs I got in the past month.

First one came from Peoria. Tom sent me a Rangers player and a Yankee.



In fairness to Tom, he couldn't have known that the Yankees would sign Chris Carter. I'm thinking that Chris Carter is what Aaron Judge might turn into -- a strikeout-prone slugger whose minor league stats make him look like a potential OBP machine but, in reality, his value is tied entirely to his homers. 

Now, in fairness, Judge being an outfielder makes him have more value than Carter. But keep in mind: Aaron Judge is 2 months older than Manny Machado and 7 months older than Bryce Harper. He's also 6 months older than Mookie Betts and 5-1/2 months older than Xander Bogaerts. Judge is almost 25 years old. The likelihood that Judge becomes a star is significantly depressed by that fact alone. Don't buy his cards thinking he's a Hall of Famer in the making though -- that is just not likely.

As a cautionary tale, let's look at Will Middlebrooks. By the time Middlebrooks was the same age as Judge, He'd already completed two (partial) seasons adding up to 169 games and 660 plate appearances in the major leagues. Stat line? 32 HR, 103 RBI, 7 SB...33 BB, 168 Ks, and a slash of .254/.294/.462. Now, Middlebrooks never has had the walks that either Judge or Carter had, so it's not a straight comparison. But still -- Middlebrooks is an NRI in Texas and Carter had to wait for the scraps to fall from the Yankees' table. Should we really expect all that much from Aaron Judge?

Okay, time to jump off my soapbox about Aaron Judge, Yankee prospect, and thank Tom for the 2017 Topps.

The second PWE came from 1995 Fleer hater, Peter Steinberg.



Peter sent me some 2017 Topps as well. Chris Capuano and Scooter Gennett were basically inserted to protect the Robin Younts, I think.  

Peter was busy at spring training drinking beer this past weekend. 

You can't blame him for that, but come on -- give some love to Victory Beer's complete logo, Peter.

Apropos of this, here are three random beers I enjoy:


1. Ommegang Brewery's Three Philosophers Ale: Ommegang is a brewery that should be close to baseball fans' hearts. It's located in the Cooperstown area, and the beer is Belgian and beautiful. Three Philosophers is a 9.8% ABV beer, but, as the link points out, it is much less bitter and less hoppy than most dark strong Belgian-style ales. This beer is just wonderful -- and with its alcohol content, it will make you the fourth philosopher quickly.


2. Delirium Tremens by Brouwerij Huyghe in Belgium. Yes, another Belgian strong ale. What can I say -- I like Belgian Ales. This one, too, drinks smoothly and with a reasonably high ABV (8.5%).

So, why do I like Belgian ales? Because while I appreciate hoppy beers, I tend to prefer beers that do not leave my palate cringing and begging for mercy. 

I also say that from talking to a man with experience. My wife's uncle was brewmaster at Miller for many, many years. While we won't get into whether that should qualify him to speak as to what good beer should taste like, he make a very good point with respect to hoppy beers. You see, the reason that many brewers like to make super hoppy beers is simple: if you make mistakes in how you brew the beer, the hop flavor will cover up the mistakes. It's much more difficult to make a good ale that tastes great, isn't so bitter that it makes you cringe, and isn't so hoppy that the consumer feels like they have fell into a vat of hops.

I realize that many folks love hoppy beers. I have my moments when I like them too. But the bitterness is occasionally overwhelming.


3. Funky Buddha Beers. If any of y'all are heading to Florida for spring training, you owe it to yourself to look for Funky Buddha beers. It's a brewery with a brewpub near Boca Raton, and its beers are excellent. I went there two years ago, and I still think about the "Morning Wood" beer -- a maple bacon coffee porter aged in bourbon barrels.  Crazy good, if a little sweet, but so damn tasty it's crazy. Their hoppy beers are also quite good too. 

Thanks for stopping by for random thoughts from me and great cards from Peter and Tom!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Just Tweet About It

I know I have mentioned before how there are quite a few good Cardinals fans in the blog world. And there are -- just look at my blogroll. Would a Brewers fan include a Cardinals blog in their blogroll otherwise? 

Twitter is much the same in many respects. We only get 140 characters there to make our point, so subtlety can get lost quickly. I view Twitter like being at a sports bar, and every user is a game on a TV. Some TVs you just ignore right away -- "no, I don't care about netball." Other TVs, you look in for a bit to try to figure out what is actually going on: "sure, I'll give Rugby Union a look." Then, there are the games on TV that you probably pay attention to: "It's 3:30 PM. Who is Alabama playing this week on CBS?" Finally, there are the games you circle; for me, that is Georgia football.

Similarly, there are a lot of users whom I pay attention to like I do Alabama football. You know what I mean -- you see what they are saying, see what they are talking about, and maybe even get into what is going on for a few minutes. There are a few folks that I seek out and try to see what is going on with them; there, it's folks like my pal Peter Steinberg (who still wants all your 1995 Fleer), like @AllTimeBrewers, and like the Cardinals fan I'm thanking tonight: Jmack a/k/a @RMcardsfan

J is a great guy -- a pleasant guy, even -- who is a Cards fan in Colorado Springs. Being in Colorado Springs, though, he is getting treated to watching the Brewers Triple-A farm club. That's led him to collecting certain Brewers players as player collections -- in particular Orlando Arcia and Josh Hader.

Recently, we worked out a trade by direct messaging on Twitter. Since he just told me he's on a 90s music bender recently and mentioned Hootie and the Blowfish (hashtag: noshame), it's time for the Dolphins to make Darius Rucker cry.


Just watch for the old-school SportsCenter intro with Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, and stay for the slightly out-of-tune singing! Or, stick around for the not-far-from-annoying close to the video with Chris Berman!

To be fair, I remember I got Cracked Rear View from a girl that I worked with who didn't like it because it was too country for her tastes. She obviously knew that Darius Rucker would go on to become a country music singer twenty years later. 

Obviously.

I liked the CD when I got it, but I really liked the other CD she gave me that was even more "country": Anodyne by Uncle Tupelo.



J sent me three autographed Brewers cards from his collection. The first is this Bowman Inception card of Monte Harrison. Harrison was a second round pick in 2014 from Missouri. The Brewers had to give him a good chunk of change to keep him from going to college at Nebraska to play wide receiver for the Huskers. 

Considering that he would have been playing against the University of Wisconsin regularly, there are hopes it will work out well for two Wisconsin teams.

Harrison has had all kinds of health issues. He was healthy near the end of last year and in the instructional league he really showed off his abilities, according to Baseball America. He'll probably end up back with the Timber Rattlers this season. Depending how things shake out, I would not be surprised to see him traded in the next couple of years for pitching. The Brewers are deep in the outfield, after all.


Here's Hootie reuniting in 2015 during the run toward David Letterman's retirement. I swear -- the rhythm guitarist does not look all that much different 21 years later than he does in that older video. 

The drummer, on the other hand...wow. He has not aged well.

So, it probably was well known back when they hit it big, but I recall hearing that Hootie & the Blowfish actually started off life in Columbia, South Carolina as an REM cover band as freshmen at the University of South Carolina (that's USC(e) to college football fans, as in USC east). This would be consistent with the story of nearly every band from a southern college town from the late 1980s. There were a lot of guys in bands who used being sort of alternative sounding and playing REM songs to try to get laid.

I could make a joke about USC(e) generally being a University of Georgia cover act, but that would be unfair. They are not a UGA cover act. They are a pale imitation of the University of Florida. I keep waiting for them to hire Ron Zook.


The Brewers First round pick in 2014 was high school pitcher Kodi Medeiros from Hawaii. Medeiros struggled last year -- badly -- at High-A Brevard County. I would not be surprised to hear that Medeiros ends up in the Carolina League this year to repeat the level (the Brewers changed affiliates at that level). Here's hoping he fixes what was wrong.


Finally, we have "Time." This song hit #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1995, though it hit number one in Canada. See -- not everything Canada does is worth imitating!

It may be difficult to recall how huge Hootie really was. Cracked Rear View hit number 1 on the album charts in the US, Canada, and New Zealand and was certified Diamond -- which means that the album has sold over 10 million copies in the United States. It has been certified as Platinum 16 times, which means it has sold over 16 million copies in the US. Wikipedia says it is the 16th-best-selling album of all time in the United States. That is massive.

I personally lost the band off my radar after this album. It is just so soft rock in so many respects. That's not to say it isn't melodic, and listenable, and something that when I hear it I wouldn't hum along with it. It is to say that it's just nothing I'd go out of my way to hear too often. I just heard it too much in 1994. 


Jorge Lopez was the token Brewer rookie in just about every single Topps/Bowman release last year -- the way Orlando Arcia is this year. The Brewers are not generally allocated more than one rookie slot, so it can be discouraging when the one who does show up is as terrible as Lopez was last year in Colorado Springs -- where I'm sure J got this card signed in person. Lopez had a 6.81 ERA in 79-1/3 innings at altitude. 

There's still hope, though -- after all, Lopez was born only 16 months before Cracked Rear View came out and he had a really good winter league showing. 

My thanks go out to J for the three great cards, the trade, and for being a good Twitterati. He's no Twitter egg!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

S.mackdown

I'm terribly slow at posting and at catching up on trades. I have a package waiting for one trade partner, and I need to put together another trade package for another trade partner.

Jimmy from Talking S.mack cards is the exact opposite of me. He is meticulous about following up with trade offers, making sure things are acceptable on each end, etc. I sent him a bunch of those Topps Heritage Minor League cards that I opened way back when, and in return he crossed some needs off my lists (and probably kept some cards from ever getting to the want lists in the first place).

I've been in a strange, out-of-sorts mood all day today. I had trouble getting my clutch to engage properly on my car this morning to allow me to start it right away. That threw me off for the entire day -- my schedule was off, my routine was off, everything felt off. The music in my life which seems to go with that is late 1980s stuff. Random 1980s stuff.

Like:


I tipped my hand on this Pixies song going around in my head lately. The normal speed version of this song is really good. But I have always been more drawn to the "UK Surf" version. It's more pensive, and that's usually the mood I'm in when I want to hear it.  Like yesterday and today.


Nothing says "pensive" like 2009 Topps base cards. I'm being serious here. I still have card needs in that arena -- 2009 seems like the time that a lot of my trade partners started coming back, but mostly they hadn't made it back enough to have accumulated enough 2009 base cards to send Brewers to me. Plus, 2009 is too recent for most card show dealers to schlep boxes and boxes of them to shows. So, it's a big hole.

That hole got smaller, though, thanks to Jimmy's kindness here!


Most people who have heard of Oingo Boingo know their album Dead Man's Party, which features the song "Weird Science." I heard that on tape as a kid and said, "Let's buy another one of their tapes." The one I bought -- probably through BMG -- was BOI-NGO. This album never got any airplay whatsoever, as best I can tell, though this song, "We Close Our Eyes," was covered by every teen boy's late 1980s crush (Susanna Hoffs) for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film soundtrack.


In that vein, let's show some cards from Peter Steinberg's favorite set, 1995 Fleer. Seriously, if you have duplicates, I think Peter, from Baseball Every Night, is trying to build at least 2 or 3 sets of 1995 Fleer, so send all your duplicates to him. He'll appreciate it greatly!


For some reason, it seems songs that I dig that are alternative end up on TV shows much later than when I get into them and suddenly become even more mainstream. "A Little Respect" by Erasure apparently got played on episode 3, season 1 of Scrubs. To be fair, this song did hit the top 20 in the United States, so it's not like it's entirely out of the blue.

Vince Clarke wrote the songs and played keyboards for Erasure. The guy is an awesome, visionary musician. He was a founding member of Depeche Mode, then formed Yazoo (known as Yaz here in the United States), then he started up Erasure. 


Some Upper Deck and some 1990s parallels to add to some player collections come with a little respect. I sometimes have trouble telling all the Upper Deck base sets from the 2000s apart. They all feature excellent photography that isn't overly filtered or contrasted so as to make veins pop off the card. But, they also tend to feature very similar minimalist designs. 

That, or I am just lazy and haven't taken the time to figure out which year is which yet. 

It's probably the second one.

Okay, last song to go with a great last card...inspired by what I just wrote about Vince Clarke:


This song has always kicked ass as a dance tune. When I was in my late teens, a buddy and I used to go to an underage dance club. We never had any money on us -- not even a quarter for water -- just enough to pay the cover charge and dance our asses off. While we always thought we were there trying to meet girls, the reality was we were there to hang out and have fun. We tried awkwardly to meet girls -- like teenage boys do -- but I usually ended up at least as interested in dancing like an idiot. 

I'd go home drenched in sweat, but thoroughly entertained. I loved the music -- stuff like Erasure, Yaz(oo), Ministry, Nine Inch Nails (Pretty Hate Machine came out in 1989, y'all), and even things like N.W.A. It was so much fun. 


As much as I can rail on and on about parallels, the reason I do it, I think, is because I'd like them to be more limited in scope -- maybe two or three per set tops -- and not as limited in number. I want to collect them. I want them to give me good memories 25 years from now about being shiny and pink and cool and attractive.

Well, at least as cool and attractive as this card design can be.

Jimmy, thank you so much for the great cards. They are much appreciated.

And everyone else, don't forget to send Peter your 1995 Fleer.