Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A tour of my 2018 BREWERSNOW set - Part II

Here we go... after a mild twitter shaming from Vossbrink, I am back at posting my 2018 BrewersNOW set. You can check out the first 32 cards of the set here.

I am proud to say that between me, Nick, and Marc Brubaker, we've managed to create a nice little stir in the hobby. The wonderful SABR Baseball Commitee blog wants a post summarizing our experiences, so I've been compelled to contribute this post, which will be linked in the SABR post.

Of course, with the new season approaching, there has been much chatter about rebooting the idea for 2019. Nick and Marc both used designed their own sets with photoshop-type programs (I'm hopelessly dumb when it comes to stuff like that) and then had them printed in sheets (Marc has yet to do this, as of this writing, actually) and cut them up. Nick sent me some of his a few weeks ago and DAMN was I impressed. They were on much thinner stock than my Rookies App cards, but the photos were sharper and he, of course, had much more leeway in the design and backside features. They were also MUCH cheaper than my cards, which ran about 80 cents each (I think Nick's cost about a nickle each). But I am still leaning towards using the Rookie App for 2019 - if I do a 2019 set. 

My reticence is only that the 2018 season was SO great for the Brewers - literally the best year of Brewers baseball I've been around for, that trying the same thing in 2019 would be a set up for a let-down. Of course, the Brewers could very well repeat as NL Central Champs and make another playoff run, but there was something special in the symbiosis of this idea and that season that would be hard to replicate. 

AHHHAHAHAAH. Who am I kidding? I'm a junkie for this crap. Of Course I'm going to do it again. Anyway, on the second half of the player cards. 

 33. Jhouyls Chacin

 34. Matt Albers

35. Domingo Santana
Domingo had a very rough start to the year and spent most of 2018 at AAA. He did come back up in August and September and had some huge hits along the way. He was traded to the Mariners in the offseason. 

36. Wade Miley
I made this card during DL stints for Miley (this is actually him leaving a game with an injury) and didn't expect he'd end up anything like the team's defacto ace come October. 

37. Nick Franklin
One of the guys everyone forgets played for the '18 Crew, Franklin played in a single game and was injured, as depicted here. 

38. Derek Johnson
Another guy who won't be back in the 2019 set, DJ jumped to the Reds this winter. 

39. Tyler Saladino
This might be my second-favorite card in the set to the Lorenzo Cain from the previous post. That's Saladino in the dugout after his inside-the-park homer in Arizona. 

40. Dan Jennings
With relief pitcher photos limited, I had to horizontal-ize a few to get them to fit properly. I kind of like the sideways photo in the standard design, like Upper Deck used to do when horizontal cards were still a novelty. 

41. Carlos Subero

42. Corey Knebel
The only card I redid due to an error, in which I spelled his name "Knabel."

43. Freddy Peralta
A hell of a debut for Freddy, in which he fanned 13 Rockies and took a no-hitter into the sixth. 

44. Brandon Woodruff

45. Boone Logan

46. Alex Asher
This is the only photographic evidence I was able to find of Asher as a Brewer. I lifted it from a tweet from the team announcing he'd been sent to AAA. 

47. Zach Davies

48. Jason Lane

49. Erik Kratz
Along with the Suter and the Counsell, these were the three I re-did to upgrade the pictures. Like with Counsell, I had to use an emotional moment to best capture the season. We see the beginnings of a chat between Kratz and ornery prick (who I totally love) Joey Votto that eventually cleared the benches. Kratz gave the quote of the year after the game, when asked what prompted the heated moment. "We were discussing the Canadian dollar and flawed systems in our two governments. He was coming from a different side of it, and we were just discussing those kinds of things."

 50. Brad Miller

 51. Keon Broxton

52 Mike Zagurski
He will be the answer in a future Sporcle quiz about the 2018 Brewers that no one will ever remember. 

 53. Aaron Wilkerson
You'll notice we're kind of into the woods now. I made these cards mostly as the players debuted with the Brewers, so we're at the point in the season when lots of short-term bullpenners were being cycled between Milwaukee and AAA.

54. Nate Orf

55. Corbin Burnes

56. Joakim Soria
Here were have out first trade pick-up for the Crew. Soria was decent, but not spectacular. He won't be back in 2019. 

57. Mike Moustakas
Moose was the big get the Brewers, picked up at the deadline from KC for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez, both of whom have cards in the first half of this set. This is a pic from his Brewers debut.

 58. Jonathan Schoop
The Brewers also added Schoop at the deadline, but he struggled mightily in Milwaukee. 

 59. Jordan Lyles
Lyles was decent for the Brewers, but in an anonymous kind of way, thus I couldn't even find a picture of him in uniform where his face was showing. Oddly enough, he drew a walk and scored the winning run in a wild 13th inning walk-off against Pittsburgh, but I couldn't find any images of him from that night. 

 60. Gio Gonzalez
It took so long for Gio to get into a game after the Brewers picked him up, I had to use something like looks like a dumb Topps variation image. 

 61. Curtis Granderson
So far, this is the only Granderson Brewers card aside from a single Topps Now issue. I NEED more Grandy Brewers. 

 62. Xavier Cendo
Fitting, perhaps, that the final player card in the set is the only guy who is missing from my All-Time Brewers set. Despite having seen action in EIGHT different MLB seasons, he is without an MLB card and only has regional Minor League issues. He's appeared in 249 games, for hell's sake, give him some love, Topps. 

So, that makes 62 cards. One shy of seven complete pages. I have no more coaches or players to add... what should I do? What can POSSIBLY complete this set??

63. Bob Uecker
The only way to end it.

I'll be back soon with my game highlight cards!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

A Fellow Blogger Judges Me

See? I told you I was serious about keeping up the blog in 2019!

Last week, AJ from The Lost Collector posted some of his pulls from his first try at 2019 Topps on Twitter. He hit a Lorenzo Cain photo variation card and, after I commented on how prudy it was, he said he'd send it my way and to send back whatever I felt was a fair swap for it.

Blind trades!! Fun for all!

Today, it arrived in the mail...

And purdy it is indeed! Checking out baseball-reference.com, it seems that the picture is from the July 31 game, with Cain asking for time after a run-scoring double that accounted for the only run of a Milwaukee win. Fun! And I certainly do thank AJ for the card. He also included this note...

Hm. A Judge auto? That seems a bit steep. I mean, it's a nice card and all, but I'd hate to part with either of my Judge autos...

Judge Elana Kagan and Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I got both of these via TTM a few years ago. It's not easy getting Supreme Court autos, and - even though I really like the Cain - I'm afraid I've got to hang on to these. 

Ohhhhh. Not that kind of Judge. I feel like a real turnip. Of course, he must have been talking about this Judge Auto...

Again, not to be ungrateful, but this Jim Pittsley Signature Rookies (Old) Judge auto is part of my All-Time Brewers collection, so I actually do need it. Probably more than most peopled a Jim Pittsley auto. 

So, shucks man, it looks like I'll have to find something else for you, since I can't really part with any of my Judge autos right now. Too bad you didn't get to me back in 2017, when I was just dying to get rid of an Aaron Judge auto I got TTM. Oh well. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

2019 Topps... Because I can't Not

I have resolved to get back to card blogging. Once a week, I'll post. 

(let's see how long this lasts)

Anyway, there's no time like the present to get back into the swing of things as the new 2019 Topps cards were released this past week. I was involved in a Jumbo case break with my team collectors group, which yielded me about five full team sets and a handful of inserts. 

It was a kinda-underwhelming return from a case break, but I did get some very nice Christian Yelich additions - including a HR Challenge card (I picked April 1 again the Reds).

As for this year's set... I kinda like the design. It's mostly clean-looking, save for that stupid pock-marking or whatever you'd call around the lower edges of the image. I like the color swoop and I REALLY like the backside, to which full stats have mercifully returned. 

I also picked up a blaster (off Amazon, off all places) just for the fun of it. 
99 cards (BUT AN AUTO AIN'T ONE)? Is that more than years before? I've seen that Topps has jumped the retail price of their packs from $2 to $3, but has also added a few more cards per pack. Does it all wash in the end? Who cares?

I opened that heavy bastard first, the manu-patch pack, which officially makes it my first card of 2019...

Not bad. I still mostly think that manu-patches are dumber than relics and I really don't care at all for relics, but it's a nice, bright card of a legend. It would be the highlight, sadly, of the box. 

There have been a lot of complaints about collation so far with Topps 2019, but I didn't see much of that in my box. I won't bother to recap the base cards, but I did find a few nice inserts. 

I dig that Khris Davis in the 1984 design. I really like these 35th anniversary inserts and I liked them last year too. However, I'm not at all looking forward to next year, assuming they'll dust off the 1985 design - which I've always hated. 

My favorite card of the box by far was this very pretty Henry Aaron Grapefruit League Legends. I liked the idea of a Spring Training-themed set, and I do admit that these cards look pretty nice, but my gripe was that - except with recent photos - you can't really tell if these are actually Spring Training shots or not. But the Aaron does tell a nice story on the back, about how Henry got his shot in the Majors after Bobby Thomson broke his ankle sliding into second. Aaron stopped in and hit a homer in his first ST game. So, it's nice to some copy on the back to tie the theme together. 

The same goes in a way for these cards - part of whatever they call the 2019 sets that generically depict retired players and reprint old Topps cards. These concepts are SOOOOOOOOO tired. Just let it go, Topps. Or take it a new direction. Oh! How about a "Never had a Card" insert set so I can finally get a proper Ron Rightnowar card? Or reprint some NEW stuff for once? Stuff your 1975 Younts in sack... I want a glossy, new take on the 1990 Chuck Crim. SURPRISE ME, TOPPS!!!

Oh, hey, here's a surprise... an ad card for Topps now. Depicting a card that probably cost about $800 when it was issued. And note that it isn't even a picture of the actual card, but just the mock-up they put on the website. Well, at least the back probably talks about the card a bit, how many they sold... OH, maybe it goes int the process of actually getting these signed. That'd be interesting... do they send a guy with a platinum suitcase to the Angels Stadium to get these scribbled on? Well, let's flip 'er over and take a...

...oh, of course. It's a copy-paste from the ABOUT tab on the ToppsNow website. Yippee. 

I also snagged this. Anyone have a suggestion for when Oz might go deep?

I probably won't build the 2019 set. I've done a lot of set-building over the past few years and I've grown a little tired of it. Even though I like the design, I dunno, it just doesn't feel like there is anything in it for me. Perhaps I'll do some rando packs throughout the year and then pick up a hand-collated set for the price of a couple of blasters in the fall.

So please forgive me as this blogging has made me weary. I am have grown too unaccustomed to the practice.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Brien Taylor: Cardboard Rise and Fall

On the surface, it seems like an odd choice for me to be a Brien Taylor super-collector. First off, he was a Yankee – among my most despised of teams. Second off, why bother? He topped out at AA and is remember mostly as one of the biggest flops in Major League history. 

To the second point, the latter sentence informs the former. As for the Yankees thing, well, that only makes his story all the more interesting. In fact, I’d say that Taylor is easily among the most fascinating ballplayers of my lifetime, with a rise and fall that has few parallels. And for the card collector of my age – turning ten years old as Taylor-mania overtook the card world in 1992 – his cardboard carries an sense of import that can only be realized by those who lived through that era. 

Brien Taylor was nearly a perfect fit for carddom in the early 1990s. The rookie card craze of the 1980s had led to major changes in how card-makers approached their products. Upper Deck had the foresight to open their debut set in 1989 with a string of rookie cards – a significant symbolic move in a time when rookies were still mostly limited to the high numbers. That same year, in a rare bold move, Topps introduced the “#1 Draft Pick” subset, a series of ten top picks featured on Major League cards in their amateur uniforms. When Jim Abbott became that year’s stud rookie, Topps’ gambit proved worthwhile and the company issued ten more #1 Draft Pick cards in 1990. Score, in their 1990 release, topped Topps by issuing 22 first round draft cards and Upper Deck included a card of top pick Ben McDonald in their base set. 

For 1991, Upper Deck featured a number of top picks in their base set as well, including future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. Bowman was also into the draft picks game by now and collectors had shown themselves very eager to invest in players well before they had been able to prove themselves as professionals. 

And into this enter Brien Taylor, a dirt-poor North Carolina lefty who remains to this day one of the greatest amateur pitchers of all-time. And enter the New York Yankees, the most decorated team in MLB history, who had just puked up a 67-95 1990 season that landed them the first pick in the 1991 amateur draft. With Taylor the consensus for the top choice, it was a match made for maximum hype. Before he’d even signed his pro contract, he was being billed as the Next Great Yankee. When he held out for a record contract, the hype meter blew apart. 

Topps – just 11 years removed from having exclusive domain on baseball cards – was by 1992 in an ultra-competive marketplace. They’d finally ditched their grey card stock and introduced the first-ever parallel set in Topps Gold. And they would score a major coup in signing Taylor to a unprecedented exclusive contract, giving them the sole right to produce Major League cards of Taylor while he was still a minor leaguer. Just months after he signed with the Yankees, Topps announced that an autographed card of Taylor would be included in their ToppsGold factory sets, which immediately became brisk sellers at their $350 wholesale price. Dealers sold them to the collecting at $500 and could hardly keep in stock.

Taylor already had cards out on the market at this time, being included in a few late-year Classic sets in 1991. He had even signed about 5,000 cards for classic for insertion into random packs, a concept that was only a few years old at the time. In 1992, the Wall Street Journal reported that Score Board, Classic’s parent company, had paid Taylor $250,000 for the right to produce his 1991 cards. But many collectors, even those who has accepted Topps/Score/Upper Deck draft cards as legit rookies, were bit wary of Classic, who showed Taylor in his high school uni, or a blank jersey top, or even in street clothes. They wanted the REAL THING. And before the 1992 baseball season even started, Taylor’s Topps card – which was the first Topps draft card to show a player in his MLB uniform – was selling for $5. A Stadium Club card issued in a collector’s set early that year was selling for twice that. And his signed ToppsGold cards were selling for hundreds. 

So this was what was all around me as a ten-year-collector, hopelessly unable to afford any Taylor cards and not lucky enough to hit one in a pack. On the field, Taylor showed a lot of promise, fanning 187 batters in 191 innings at class A Fort Lauderdale with 2.57 ERA. But he had been burdened – especially in the card world where investors were expecting to make a fast killing on his cards – with hype that could only be realized by opening the 1993 season in pinstripes. Instead, he opened the year at AA and stayed there all season. He pitched well, especially for a 21-year-old, but Dwight Gooden already had a Cy Young and a World Series title at 21. The hype faded, his card prices sank, and – overwhelmed with product for a AA pitcher who was supposed to be the exclusive property of Topps (Fleer, Classic, and Upper Deck were all permitted to issue minor league cards of Taylor), collectors began to lose interest. 

Then, in December 1993, Taylor got into what must be the most infamous trailer park brawl in pro sport history. While the details on the case are still unclear, Taylor got into a fight defending his brother and blew out his shoulder in the melee. He missed the entire 1994 season, then lingered at A-ball for four more years before the Yankees released him. In those seasons he never had an ERA lower than 6.08 and never threw more than 40 innings. 

After a flurry of 1994 releases, Taylor’s only 1995 card was in the Bowman set. It shows him smiling in shorts and the classic Yankees jersey he seemingly only wore for photo shoots. The man who had driven the trading card market to the pages of the Wall Street Journal just three years prior would appear on just one card, a 1996 Norwich Navigators’ team-issue. He looks tired in the portrait photo. 

I started this Taylor collection without even realizing it, a few years ago, when I picked up one of his signed 1991 Classic cards for a dollar on eBay. I just couldn’t resist, knowing what that card would have meant to me as a kid of 10. This past year, bored of the latest rookie hype, I again went on eBay and scored one of the storied ToppsGold autographs. I paid about $4 for it. The buyer mailed me three of them. When I contacted him to see if this had been a mistake, he said it was not, telling me that he just wanted to get rid of them.
This was when I realized I had to go all the way on Brien Taylor. He is one of the few prominent players of the last 25 years who has an achievable number of cards in his overall library. Per the Trading Card Database, they are 106 different Taylor cards. The hardest to find will the minor league team issues and the spate of unlicensed weirdo cards – a trend whose peak seemed to match Taylor’s. There have been no retrospective cards or reissues in the years since his glum Norwich issue. No one seems to want to revisit his time in Yankees history. Taylor has personally mostly maintained his privacy since leaving the game. He’s done few interviews and has made news only when with his legal troubles. He did three years in prison for his role in a cocaine-trafficking scheme (he was facing 40), and hasn’t been heard much of since his release, save for MLB draft time when people run down the biggest busts in draft history. 

I currently have 37 Brien Taylor cards in my collection, with another ten soon to arrive in the mail. This gets me nearly to the half way point in a Taylor MASTER COLLECTION. And I think I’ll have fun trying to track down the rest. It’ll make a good binder to page through whenever I get a flustered with the thousand moving pieces that seem to make up my collection. As Thomas Gray once wrote, “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”