Sunday, June 24, 2012

Some Lower Tier People (Well Me) are Still Chasing Heritage

As I mentioned in my last post (has it been a week already?) I went on a bit of a card buying binge. I also managed to pull off two trades during that time. The first one happened just after I finished my order on CheckOutMyCards….you know that 20 second period of guilt you feel after you hit the “Submit Order” button?

It seems Marcus over at all the way to the backstop... had some spare Heritage cards on hand that he needed to get rid of.  Luckily for me, about 47 of them I needed.  Based on the ratio of doubles to cards I need I’ve been experiencing lately through retail buying, Marcus saved me from buying about 136 packs.

In exchange I sent him some extra Padres cards that I had lying about and a couple of cards he needed off of his want list.

A quick sample of some of the cards in the package.

Not a clue who Blake Beavan is.  There was a time when I knew every player that appeared in a set.  Now, not so much.

Not sure why I selected the Santana card.  Oh well, here it is.

Had to have at least one card rockin' the Orange and Black!  Vlad is currently surfing the free agent waters after getting released from the Toronto organization.  Perhaps it's time the best bad ball hitter of the last generation retired.  Borderline Hall of Famer? Definite member of the Hall of Guys You Didn't Want To Face When the Other Team Needed A Hit.

"Carl, imagine if you had signed with the Angels instead of the Red Sox"  Look, I was a CC collector back when he was with the Rays, I think he can still turn it around in Boston if his wrist heals correctly, but man was that the wrong place for him to sign.

Thanks, Marcus.  I'll be keeping an eye out for Padres cards at the Rosemont card show next week!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A New Card Leads to an Orioles History Lesson

Now that my work schedule seems to be stabilizing (yea working mid-shifts!) it’s time to get back to posting regularly both here and at my other piece of internet real estate. I plan on easing back in with some card-related posts, especially since I went a on a little online card buying binge earlier this week. Before I get to that, however, it’s time to review a trade I made a couple of months ago.

One of the great things about being active in the online card community is meeting new people and working out trades with different people. Sometimes though, it’s nice to be able to put together a trade with a wily ol’ veteran of the blog-o-sphere.

Back in April Marck from Troll Might Rule aka The Collective Troll dropped me a note that he needed some of the extra Heritage cards I had posted.  I was glad to send him some and he mentioned that he had some cards on my want list as well as some “Orioles styff”.  I wasn’t sure if it was a mistype or an Olde English description of some Glenn Davis cards (cause that man was a stiff in an Orioles uniform).

Back when I was writing my first attempt at a blog (RIP Wasteland!) there weren’t many folks talking about the Rays on a regular basis.  There was myself, Dave from Fielder’s Choice and then the prolific Collective Troll. At one point I’m pretty sure Marck had six different blogs going about different things.  We worked out a few deals here and there before I moved up to Chicago and left the Rays part of my collection behind.

So it was nice to see an envelope in the mail with “The Collective Troll” on the return label (the Duchess saw the envelope and was astonished I was getting mail addressed from someone named The Collective Troll – I think astonished is the word I’m looking for). Anyone who has traded with the web’s foremost Rays fan/roller derby enthusiast knows he delivers above and beyond expectations.  Along with the aforementioned want list cards there was plenty of Markaki (including some customs) and some Ginter action.  I’ll spare you the scans of all the cards (ed. Note – someone is feeling lazy) and leave you with just one – my favorite card of the package.

Second least favorite Orioles hat design

Does anyone know who drew the cartoons on the back of Topps cards?

That’s no 2012 Heritage, my friends. That’s an honest-to-god 1963 Topps card of former Oriole/White Sox/Red Sox/Royal /Hankyu Brave Jerry Adair. To be honest, when I first saw the card I was surprised that the Orioles current pitching coach also played for the team. Then I looked closer and realized that Jerry Adair isn’t:

1.       A pitcher

2.       Alive

3.       Named Rick Adair

What can I say, I’m getting old, names tend to run together from time-to-time.

Adair (Jerry that is) was a solid Oriole from the late-50s to mid-60s. The O’s signed him out of Oklahoma State University in 1958 and threw him straight into the big leagues.  He would play in the majors sparingly over the next three seasons spending most of 1959 in Amarillo and 1960 in Miami. By 1961 he had earned a spot on the big league roster and for the next five seasons he would be a defensive stalwart in the middle of the O’s infield.

Nicknamed “Casper the Friendly Ghost” Adair was a smooth-fielding second baseman who could handle himself at the plate (he averaged .258 in his nine seasons with the O’s). Considered one of the best defensive second basemen of his era, the Oklahoma native teamed with shortstop Luis Aparicio to provide one of the best infield duo’s in Baltimore history (oh, and there was a guy named Brooks Robinson at third).

Unfortunately he wouldn’t be around to enjoy the O’s first World Series victory in 1966. After manager Hank Bauer announced in spring training that rookie Davey Johnson would be starting in place of Adair, the veteran publicly announced that he was bitter about the move and demanded a trade. Baltimore obliged and in June of that year traded Adair to the White Sox along with John Riddle for Eddie Fisher. Fisher (the ballplayer not the singer) would be a key part of the bullpen going 5-3 with 13 saves in 71.2 innings.

Adair’s glove would keep him in the league for another 4 years and when he left the league in 1970 he did it with a .985 career fielding percentage having made only 58 errors in 3926 chances (I’m pretty sure Mark Reynolds has 58 errors this week).

Jerry Adair would find some work as a coach before passing away from liver cancer in 1987 at the age of 50. Cancer hovered like a dark cloud in Adair’s life. Towards the end of his career, when he was with the Royals organization, his daughter was struggling with a form of terminal cancer. Adair had understandably struggled that season and the team cut him in May. His daughter would die a few weeks later. In 1981 he would also see his wife pass away from cancer. has a fascinating bio of Adair on their site, providing some information of a player that many fans (like myself) might not be that familiar with.

Many thanks to the Troll.  I’m already putting aside some more Rays cards for you.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mike Lee - Pitchman or Puncher?

Mike Lee is arguably Chicago’s most recognized boxer.  Not so much for his work in the ring, but for his appearance in a nationally televised commercial.  He’s the guy in the Ryan Howard/Justin Strahan Subway commercial that has people saying, “Who the hell is Mike Lee and why is he in this commercial?”

The answer is that Mike Lee is an up-and-coming light-heavyweight that has nine professional matches under his belt (all of them wins) and a taste for turkey subs from the ubiquitous sandwich chain. His role as a spokesman for Subway probably has more to do with his Notre Dame connections more than his proficiency of pugilistic acumen. Lee, who had 16 amateur bouts before turning pro, graduated from Notre Dame as did Subway’s Chief Marketing Office, Tony Pace.

While Lee has some notoriety due to the commercials he still needs to prove himself in the ring.  Being in the Top Rank stable can help him build on that popularity since it would be easy for them to put him on some of the pay-per-view fights that the promotion company puts together.  Most popular boxers rose to fame on those types of undercards.

Before that happens, Lee has to start facing some more competent fighters in the ring. Scrolling through his fight history doesn’t exactly elicit a “who’s who” of light-heavyweight contenders. Seven of the nine fighters he’s faced have losing records including three guys who hadn’t won a fight when they faced him. I understand bringing a fighter along slowly, especially one who doesn’t have an extensive amateur career, but due to his popularity (especially in Chicago) one has to wonder if Top Rank will rush the 24-year-old along.

I didn’t want to paint him with the “all flash, no substance” brush before actually seeing him fight, so I tuned in to ESPN3 Friday Night to watch him take on Eliseo Durazo in a six-round contest (there was some discrepancy on how long the fight was supposed to be. Top Rank had promoted it as a four-rounder, but the Las Vegas commission had sanctioned it for six. This led to the amusing situation of Durazo heading to his corner after the fourth round thinking the fight was over).

Lee put in a winning performance as he took five of the six rounds on all three judges’ scorecards (as well as mine), but he didn’t score the highlight reel knockout.  To my eye it looked almost as if he was in a training session. It was as if trainer Ronnie Shields told his fighter to go out and work on his jab, which was crisp, and his defense, which was a bit spotty.

Durazo was a willing, if slightly fleshy, competitor who had taken the fight on only five days notice after Lee’s scheduled opponent, Isiah Barela, withdrew due to an injury.  El Negro’s game plan seemed to center around walking forward and hitting Lee’s body as much as possible with little concern for using his jab.  Lee did a good job of deflecting most of the punches with his elbows, but enough got through that I wondered how he would have fared against a fighter with a little more power.

While Lee was clearly the boxer with better stamina and mobility in the ring, he was willing to stand still and take punches from slower-footed opponent. As he matures that’s a trait he hopefully gets away from.  After all, it’s always better to slip a punch then take it or block it. With a little better footwork he can also get himself into positions to throw more effective punches.

In close Lee had a tendency to lean over and keep his chin exposed, a chin that Durazo tagged with an upper cut on at least two occasions. Luckily for the Subway aficionado there wasn’t much power behind the punches.

On offense Lee did a good job snapping off his jab and working a hook off of it. It was kind of surprising that Lee didn’t work the body more, especially with how soft Durazo looked in the ring. Lee did land several decent punches through the match and looked to have Durazo hurt in the second when the Mexican fighter backpedaled rapidly after absorbing a few punches from the Wheaton native. However, Lee was content to let him back up and didn’t keep the pressure on his rotund opponent.

He didn’t show game-changing power that elite boxers usually possess. Again, it’s possible that he wasn’t interested in raining down power shots on Durazo, choosing instead to get some live ring work in. When Lee did throw punches he was on balance and able to string some combinations together including some three and four punch combos.

At this point in his career Mike Lee is still a bit of a raw product in the ring. It will be interesting to see how Top Rank brings the24-year-old along. His ability should keep him away from the top-tier boxers for the next few fights, but his name recognition might provoke them to reach above his current skill set for a bigger payday.

If they asked me (and they won’t) I would point out that he hasn’t fought in Chicago since his pro debut at the UIC Pavilion. Perhaps the future could include a Friday Night Fights in the Windy City against some of the local talent that is on the way up. Maybe the powers that be could arrange a Mike Lee vs. Andrzej Fonfara match-up for sometime in the fall? They shouldn’t have any trouble at all selling that one out. Fonfara’s willful aggression would be a good test for Lee’s defense and chin.

After watching one boxing match I’m not ready to crown him as Chicago’s best boxer yet, but at the same time I’m not going to write him off as nothing but hype. With the win I’m sure he’s also kept his name and face in Subway commercials a little bit longer.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pack Break! One For The Archives

So I found a reason to go to Target yesterday (for the record I really did need new T-Shirts) and that means time to pick up a pack of Heritage. Yes I'm collecting the set one pack at a time, the most inefficient and expensive way to do it, but hey it fills the fix I occasionally have for pack bustin'.

Underneath the well-pawed over gravity feed box of Heritage there was a newish looking box of Topps Archives. Back in January I planned on not wasting money on sets I have no intent of finishing, but now that I have a little extra scratch in my pocket I decided to see the product that all the kids are talking about. So I flipped a back in my basket and went on with my day.

What did my deviation from the norm yield? Riches? Non-riches? Orioles? Cubs? Ummm how about none of the above. So lets take a look at what I did receive.

Matt Moore - The Rays rookie phenom recently snapped a 4-game losing streak by tossing 6 innings of 2-run ball against my beloved O's.

Hanley Ramierz - Some folks (hi, Strums) say that the Marlins uniforms occupy that space where ugly becomes beautiful.  I disagree. Sometimes ugly is just ugly.

Jordan Zimmermann - The Zimmermann with the extra "n" in his name on the Nationals might have a losing record, but his stats aren't that bad. He's currently on pace to have career lows in WHIP, ERA and opponent's BA but still has a losing record at 3-5. (This card is no longer available for trade)

Ryan Howard - The big slugger has yet to play a game in the big leagues this year as he continues to rehab his injured Achilles. Per ESPN he has started playing in simulated games down in Clearwater (one of the best baseball stadiums in the Tampa Bay Area).

R.A. Dickey - Fairly interesting guy. Besides being the only knukleballer left in the big leagues he also is a voracious reader and has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Duke Snider - Snider was one of a trio of outfielders that dominated New York sports during the '50s (Willie, Mickey and The Duke). He was also the teammates with a young Sandy Koufax.  I'm reading a book about Koufax, which has absolutely nothing to do with this card.  Let's move along.

Kevin Youkilis - It seems the "Greek God of Walks" is living on borrowed time in Boston.  Youkilis is going to be a great candidate for the "What Could Have Been if Not For Injuries" game.

Brandon Morrow - Morrow is making $4 million this year. Not a bad deal as he's been rock steady this season (although his .243 BAbip might have some saying his numbers aren't sustainable).

Overall I'm not all that jazzed by the Archives, mainly because of the card stock.  Flimsy is the best way I can describe it, and the slick finish just doesn't work with some cards (such as the Matt Moore). If they had been printed on the cardboard stock I might feel a little better about them.

Since there are no cards here that I'm looking for - they are all for trade.  Feel free to check out my Heritage trade page while you're at it.