Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! It's Card Of The Year TIme!

Guest blogging from my sister's house in Baltimore. It's quarter after nine on Christmas Eve and my shopping is done. Alas, hours of wrapping lay ahead, but that's what beer and A Christmas Story are for. In the meantime, I thought I would slip in one more post. It's that time of year. Once again, the world sits and waits for the announcement.


The award was originally established in 2008 when I pulled a beautiful Masterpiece oncard auto of Melvin Emmanuel Upton. 2009 featured a card that I picked up due to my tough negotiating at the local flea market . Now it's back and out of control.

Let us not waste anymore cyberink. Here it is in all of its glory:

The 2010 Topps Eddie Murray Shortprint Variation.

Revel in its glory. First of all it's a night card, which increases the coolness of any card by a factor of 10. It's horizontal (factor of 3). Murray is sporting old school stirrups (factor of 2), the mustache-to-sideburns facial hair (factor of 8) and is settling into his stance with the subtle bad-assness that made him my favorite player as a kid (factor of 15). All in all this card's coolness has been increased by a factor of 38, making it 38 times cooler than any other card I saw this year.

And I say saw, because as of right now I don't own this card. Yup I didn't take that picture, stole it from eBay (that's what he gets for having a $19.95 BIN price). I want this card, I've bid on this card and so far it's eluded me at all turns. As of right now it is established as my white whale, that card which renders my collection incomplete until I own it. It will be mine, oh yes it will be mine.

So how was 2010 as a collector for me? Not too bad, but not too great either. I stopped buying any random box of cards I stumbled across and focused on player collecting only to drop one of my players by the end of the year. I busted some products I liked (Chicle and Score Hockey), some that left me blah (Allen and Ginter Leaf Certified), but nothing that I hated. So that's good.

I subsidized a portion of my purchasing with some ebay sales, which was nice, but it also led me to buy some cards I probably wouldn't have in the past. Then again, in the past I've bought boxes of cards that I didn't need, so I guess even that was better.

Trading was down, which I blame on being 1000 miles away from 90% of my collection. Hopefully, that will pick up next year as I bring some of the cards up to Chicago.

If I had to grade the year I would give it a solid C+. Other events conspired to push cards to a back burner, but I still enjoyed 99% of my association with cards and haven't lost the joy I get out of busting a new pack or getting a padded envelope in the mail.

2011 will bring more fun and collecting as well as a new player to collect. I'm officially on board as an Eddie Murray collector. Shocking seeing as how the last two card related posts were about him. I even have my membership card... not really I made one up....actually no I didn't...well I thought about it.

Due to my prodigious collecting during the late 80's and 90's I should have the bulk of his base cards. Now it's a matter of getting some of the fun cards that have come out in the last few years. I think I might start picking a particular set and tackling it one at a time. For instance of his cards in 2010 Chicle, then all of his cards in 2010 Topps base, etc.

Here's hoping that Santa brings you all of the cards that you wish for this year. Good luck in collecting next year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chicago Photo 9 - Christmas Time!


Another in the line of Chicago icons. The lions that stand guard outside of the Art Institute of Chicago. The photo is from a couple of weekends ago when the first snow of the year rolled through the city. It wasn't too bad, just 3 or 4 inches.

I forgot how quiet the world gets when it snows. Everything seemed muffled and peaceful as I wandered down the street to the CTA station. Even downtown, the normal bustle of the city was subdued. It was quite peaceful. And I didn't bust my ass on the ice, so that was a bonus.

Back to the lions. Made out of bronze, they've been guarding the entrance to the Art Institute for over 100 years, since the building opened in 1893. As you can see in the photo the care takers occasionally decorate them. In the past they've also sported the Bears and Blackhawks helmets.

Nameless, the Lions are referred to as the "North Lion" and the "South Lion". The sculpter, Edward Kemeys, has stated that the lions are protecting the building and the South Lion has spotted something in the distance and is eyeing it carefully. See even back then people where worried about the South Side.

Traditionally, the wreaths around the necks of the lions are made of evergreen and holly. This year they are made of tiny little red balls that are solar powered allowing them to glow during the evening hours.
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Hey, Look Who's Finally Posting Something About Carl Crawford!

One Hundred. Forty. Seven. Million. Dollars. That’s a lot of money. Even in the convoluted world that is major league sports it’s a lot of money. Enough to walk away from the only franchise he ever knew. Enough to say good bye to a fan base that adored him (when they were involved enough to care). Enough to sign with a division rival so that those same fans can see him in the opposition’s colors 18 times a season.

I thought I would be more upset at Carl Crawford. Of course, I also thought there would be a Festivus miracle and the Rays would announce that they had resigned the four time All-Star from Waco. And yet here we are. Crawford flashed his charming smile as he donned the Red Sox jersey and I merely shrugged my shoulders and flipped the channel.

Twelve year old Justin G. would not have handled it so well. There would be moping, perhaps some tearing up of cards and other means of youthful, yet ineffective protest. It’s kind of sad to think that I’ve grown past that level of fan-dom. The blind, passionate devotion to a player or a team that kids possess. Kind of like believing in Santa Claus.

Tampa Bay Rays’ fans are at a crossroads. For the last three years they’ve tasted success, now they’re paying the price for that success. Other popular players had been moved out before, most notably Aubrey Huff and Scott Kazmir. Neither one of them had the cache of Crawford, though.

He was the one that had been there the whole time, the many years of the bad and the few years of the good. He had come up through the system, been the one constant through the long years. It was only in the last few years that Crawford had started to garner the adoration on the national level that had always been present on the local level.

Early in his career he relied on pure speed, lacking the mechanical fundamentals of more polished runners like Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman. Few things were more fun then watching him leg out a triple. Rounding second it often looked like he was running two fast for his body. Arms wind milling wildly, legs churning it was a wonder he didn’t fall down more often.

I’m sure someone could look it up and dispute it, but it seems like nobody in the league got to two strikes faster than Crawford. It seems like he was always hitting 0-2 or 1-2. Sometimes he would concede to the two strikes and slap the ball on the ground to the left side. More times than not he would beat the throw out. Other times he would hack away, without a care in the world. Few batters look worse when they swing and miss, or look better when they connect and drive the ball a surprisingly far distance.

For years he toiled in obscurity. So long it seems impossible to believe he’s not 30 yet. I have a lingering image of him standing in left field with his hands on hips as Jesus Colome, Jae Kuk Ryu or Tanyon Sturtze jogged in from the bullpen in route to another 8-4 loss. He looked like a man who wanted to be anywhere else.

Yet in 2005 he signed a long, team-friendly extension. The rumors of the Rays dealing him away quietly died down and after Rocco Baldelli’s role on the team succumbed to health issues Crawford emerged as the face of the franchise. To Rays’ fans he was “our guy”. Maybe the rest of the league didn’t appreciate his talents, but for the loyal 10,000 fans in the TBA he was more valuable than Manny or god forbid - Jason Bay.

Then baseball changed around him. With the steroid allegations swirling and harsher drug testing imposed, home runs lost some of their luster. While the importance of a lumbering, slugging home run hitter being valuable to the team might not have totally disappeared, it has been at least devalued. Players who an run, hit and play a little defense suddenly became more important.

In addition Merlot Joe became the Rays manager. (Please note Merlot Joe is not my nickname, I am blatantly ripping it off from another site - Rays Index). Madden let Crawford be Crawford. Swing away, get on base and run till your heart is content.

Then the Rays started winning. Making it to the playoffs but the team on the national stage for the first time and even though Crawford struggled in the World Series (as did the rest of the offense) people took notice. The talking heads started talking about his talents and the TBA started to get nervous. He wasn’t our secret any more.

In the 2009 All Star game he robbed Brad Hawpe of a potential game winning home run and took home the MVP award. More national attention and more nervous fans. Swiping a record tying six bases against the Red Sox didn’t help. As the Rays dropped out of the playoff race that season the trade rumors started to swirl. Under contract for another year perhaps it was time they cashed in their chips and started over. Thus began the Desmond Jennings hype.

2010 saw the season begin with Crawford still in the blue and white of the Rays. Luckily for Rays fans the team was in contention from the get go. As a swan song Crawford rewarded his fans with the best all around season of his career. His first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, career highs in home runs (19), RBI’s (90), and batting average (.307). Leading the team to their second division title in 3 years he showed all of the potential and sealed his fate in Saint Pete.

The Rays will move on. Crawford’s records will be broken and there will be other players to cheer for. Who knows, in seven years maybe he comes back for a reunion tour. Even if he doesn’t he will always have a special place in the hearts of true Rays fans. In his first game back, welcome him warmly, but then remember he plays for the Red Sox now.

As for me and my personal Carl Crawford collection, well it’s time to move on. Over the next few months I will be liquidating my 100 or so card collection on the Bay. Certain financial obligations that cropped up during the typing of this post do not allow me to trade away the collection as was my original intent. However, if you’re interesting making an offer drop me a line and we might be able to work something out.

It was a good run, and I picked up some neat cards that I really enjoyed. There will be some sadness in seeing them go, but they’ll be another player to collect and more fun cards to discover. The player will be named shortly when I reveal the prestigious Hopeful Chase Card of the Year sometime next week.

Thank you Carl Crawford. Enjoy success in the future, well not too much success……

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick Hits - It's Damn Cold Edition

Some thoughts while I watch the Ravens make this Monday night game way closer than it needs to be.

* The Linus Omark Spin-o-Rama Shootout Goal. I love the Lightning, but c'mon guys relax. It's a shootout, if he wants to add some flair let him. It wasn't that long ago that Marty St Louis suffered the same criticism for his backwards skating shootout goal. And Dan Ellis - if anything has been "disrespectful" this season it's been your goaltending.

* It was nice of Steven Stamkos to let Sidney Crosby back in the goal scoring race.

* Like (not love) the O's moves in the off-season so far. I have a feeling that Mark Reynolds will end up around .240 and 35-39 HR's. Look for Nick Markakis to rediscover some of the power he lost last year.

* Did Brett Favre die or just miss a game? Kind of hard to tell with ESPN's coverage today.

* In the middle of a Carl Crawford column in which I'll announce the fate of the personal collection.

* Not sure which verbal crutch I'm a bigger fan of - Jon Gruden's "THIS GUY" or Jaws' "NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE".

* Caps fans panicking over a six game losing streak in December is HI-larious.

* Loving the cold weather so far. Gives me an excellent excuse to not do anything except surf the web and drink hot chocolate.

* A lot of folks bemoaning the "demise" of the Rays. With their starters they'll still be in it at the end next year. Don't lose faith in Friedman & Co. Rays fans.

* Don't look for Steve Yzerman to make any rash moves in regards to the goaltending woes for the Lightning. There really isn't much out there that's available. The asking price for Tomas Vokoun is going to be too high and trading for Dewayne Roloson or J.S. Giguere doesn't exactly solve the problem. That being said I wouldn't be surprised if Yzerman hasn't at least put a call in to Evgeni Nabokov's agent. Why not give young Cedrick Desjardins a try in the meantime? Could he do any worse? I submit to you that he cannot.

* Nervous about the last three games for the Ravens. New Orleans will light them up. Cleveland is feisty and Cincinnati beat them once already.

Hey look it's and eight point game. Way to close strong boys!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The First Cards of December!

If I had any type of blogging motivation at all I would probably start a 12 Cards of Christmas gimmick on this website that culminated with me revealing the 2010 Hopeless Chase Card of the Year. However, those that know me (hi Mom and Dad!), know that out of all of my wonderful traits motivation is not one of them. So instead you get just a quick post about a card I got in the mail.

Could this card signal the birth of a new player collection? With the departure of Carl Crawford imminent, perhaps I should focus my attention on a player who can't break some little kid's heart by jumping town.

On a side note, is it even remotely possible that some kid in the TBA wrote a letter to Santa Claus in which all he wants for Christmas is for CC to sign a 7 year deal with the Rays? Do kids even write to Santa anymore? Because I'm sure a 5 year old Justin G. would have done that, if he could write, that is. What age do kids start writing? I don't know these things, good thing I'm not a parent I guess.

Where was I? Oh yeah, a card in the mail. Here it is:

It's a 1978 Topps Eddie Murray Rookie Card.

I wouldn't call it my White Whale, more like a White Tuna, maybe. I've bid on Murray rookies about 10 times this year and lost out on every occasion as furious bidding in the final moments drove it out of my price range. Just for fun I put a bid on one last week and actually managed to grab it for a reasonable price.

As I grow older as a collector and a fan I tend to remember only the good parts of my childhood as a fan. 0-21? Don't remember the 21 losses, but I do remember the Chicago White Sox fans cheering for the O's win in the 22nd game. Eddie Murray traded for a bundle of spare parts? Nope, Memorial Stadium rocking with "ED-DIE, ED-DIE" chants.

So I picked up the card and have toyed with the idea of starting a Murray collection to replace CC. We'll see what happens with that as the days roll on. In the meantime, I'll look at classic O's cards and remember the childhood days.

Speaking of childhood, if there are any young readers out there reading. Let me fill you in on one of the great things about being an adult. As I typed this up, guess what I had for dinner. A bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Not a small bowl either, a heaping bowl of sugary goodness.

The best part (other than the sugar rush jitters) no one is here to look disapprovingly at me. It's glorious! So when an if you're wondering if it's awesome to be an adult - sometimes it is.