Saturday, February 27, 2010

Time to lay down the gun and pick up the bat

Baseball cards are great. They get you closer to the players. You learn great statistics, stories and backgrounds for the game's greatest stars as well as the obscure. You are presented annually with multiple options to please set collectors, big-hit hunters, insert junkies, and relic hounds. It helps you appreciate the great game of baseball while owning a piece of the game.

Another way to get even closer to the game is to play the game. I tried when I was a kid. I played little league for several years. I used to ride my bike to practice, and to games all over town in 95 degree heat. Unfortunately, I was a very tall kid, but very awkward as well. While I could hit the ball okay, I was a terrible fielder, so the coach would always stick me out in the outfield, which only made things worse because I was awful at judging fly balls. if I could get under one, I could (most likely) make the catch. But the whole running and judging where the ball was going to land was not a strong point and the ball would oft fly over my head. I found out later that I needed glasses and had trouble judging depth due to astigmatism. I also found out later in life in softball leagues that I am a better infielder because you don't really have to judge depth and it's more about reaction time.

The problem with playing softball in Oregon? It rains too much. You pay your league fee up front and half of the games are rained out and never made up. Even if it rained three days earlier, it is entirely possible the fields won't be playable. The heck with it.

Sooo, there is yet ANOTHER option on how to play baseball, and that is on the comforts of your own sofa with your television and video game system. The annual debate of which is better MLB2k series or MLB The Show rages on.

For me, the answer is simple. I have an Xbox, therefore MLB 2K wins by default. But the online debate can get rather comical with each side adamantly defending their purchase. Xboxers try to talk up their product because they have no choice, and Playstationers talk trash about theirs because they are trying justify spending a massive amount of money more for their system (yes, the gap is closing on price, but not really).

I sat down today and pulled up some YouTube videos of each. If so inclined, here is some eye-candy for each product:

MLB 10 The Show:


So which is better? Well, just based on the videos, I am blown away with the attention to detail that The Show puts into the game. Everything from the umpire adjusting his mask to vendors throwing peanuts to the crowd. And occasional it just LOOKS like you are watching the game on television. Well done.

But it's certainly not perfect. Remember those vendors selling food? Yeah, they come through the section every 10 seconds...that is the best fed group of fans on the planet. Also, comparing the two I would have to say that the announcing in The Show is lacking a bit compare to MLB2K10. When it comes down to it, its all about the game play and physics, and you simply cannot tell from the demos how the game will play until you play it.

MLB2K10 has been a roller coaster of a series for Xbox. The Simpsons lynch mob was all over the game last season for all sorts of bugs and imperfections. I still enjoyed it because I don't have a Playstation and also had not played another baseball in about five years, so it was leap-years ahead of where it had been. But the dropped fly balls and other errors were a bit annoying. To top it off, I believe that some teams were more glitchy than others (separate designers made each team) so it was impossible for me to be the Red Sox with all the errors. I settled for the Mets.

So I gave this year's demo a go. It appears to be a pretty fun game and I will definitely purchase it this week, but I don't think it will be nearly as good as The Show. But I am okay with that. Once you get going on a season, you get sucked into the game play and the stats and all is good.

Of course this means laying down the COD weapons and picking up a bat instead. Waiting patiently for the right pitch and playing a leisurely game of baseball does not do good things to the reflexes when trying to go BACK to Call of Duty down the road. Oh well. Bullets for base hits is not all that bad of a trade.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jacoby's Treasure Chest

Friday's are always fun because it gives me the opportunity to dip into the treasure chest and pull out some random cards from Jacoby's collection. Here are this week's randoms...
2009 SP Authentic Ricky Romero Letterman. Okay, so this was not exactly a RANDOM pull, I have a few autos that are way thicker than the other cards in the box, and I had to pick one out of there eventually. The pick of the thick cards WAS random though. And this time around it is Romero. I have spoken about Ricky before with some of his other cards, so I won't go into the reasons why I like him again, but I do find it interesting that card is an "H" which is clearly not in the name ROMERO. Yeah, so it spells out SP AUTHENTIC or something and is a big yellow letter. Kind of a stretch for the collection, but I like it all the same since it was my first one of these.

Clay Buchholz 2008 Moments and Milestones. I obtained this from a trade way back in the beginnnig a year ago. This was one of my first autos and a very nice design as well. I really do hope Clay gets his shot this year, but something screams "trade bargaining chip" to me. I really hope that is not the case.

Matt LaPorta. This one came out of my one box of SP Authentic, which was the forbidden product to buy single packs of. Christmas money turned into my own box of the stuff, and this was my regular autograph hit. I have never followed the Indians too much, especially since all of their pitchers have been plucked away to other teams, but to my understanding, LaPorta has made a pretty good name for himself with the team, so he's worth keeping an eye on.

That's it for now! Have a good day!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I like Gooooooooold!

I like gooooold! More specifically Topps Gold.
No, no, no....not gold variations...that would be far too valuable. No, I am talking about Toppstown gold variations! Oh yeah! Can ya dig it?
Why on earth would I want such a horrific insert? Its quite simple really...because its goooooold! Also because chances are that many of you out there don't give a toss about this subset anyways and I am rescuing them from near-certain destruction. If you happen to have pulled some of these and they match up to my needs list below, please contact me and lets make a deal! Let's find a good home for these out-of-place, often misunderstood treasures of majesty!
Write me, won't we?
Goooooold Toppstown Needs: 1,2,4,6,7,8,13,14,16,20,21,22,23,24,26,27,28,29,30
Regular Toppstown Needs: 26,27,28,29,30 (did Toppstown created SP's? Seriously?)

Thanks for your help!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Overthinking the Card Shop

This hobby will make you crazy.

In the past I have had a lot of conflict with my local and only (former) card shop, owned by none other than Cranky himself.

Cranky's shop was a hodgepodge of every type of card imaginable, including hobby boxes as well as loose individual packs available for sale. The interesting part of the setup is that all of the boxes, including the loose packs are kept on shelves behind the counter. If you want a few packs, he will grab the box and let you choose which you want, but you don't get to grope them.

It all seemed on the up and up, nobody likes pack searchers and this seemed to indicate that the owner was wanting to keep the integrity of the product and your chances of pulling a decent hit sound.

But I started noticing things...

For one, I learned that Cranky was a MAD eBay seller, and I mean that two ways...1) he sold a ton of singles on eBay and 2) he was just MAD, as in cranky, really really cranky about how eBay has jacked up their rates.

Also, whenever I would talk about a product, he would mention that he busted some product and found some awesome cards. That's all fine and dandy if he wants to bust some of his own product and sell it on eBay, but little doubts started to form in my mind about the hobby boxes he was putting out on the shelves. Lets say he has a few cases of a product, finds the case hit, and then throws the others out on the shelf or sells them on eBay?

Another weird thing I would notice is when he would consolidate loose packs from several boxes into one box. Therefore, when you scan over a box of 24 packs where there should be three hits, how can you guarantee that there are even 3 hits in those 24 packs...or for that matter even one hit?

See, this hobby can drive you nuts!

Enter the new shop. I have had excellent luck with the products, minus an expired Russell Martin Sweet Spot glove redemption, and the owner has some rules laid out about opening up packs in his shop...he does not want you to do it because if he knows that you get a hit, he does not want to have it on his conscious that he is selling loose packs at top price that have nothing in them.

Piggybacking this, he also would not restock his boxes with non-hit packs because his philosophy is that the customer does not pull anything, then they may not return to purchase again. Very true. He also dabbles in eBay just a bit, but mostly just to purchase SF Giants cards for himself.

Another major difference with the two owners, is that the second owner will put out a few open hobby boxes on his store counter. Immediately alarms go of in my head as I envision pack-searchers feeling them all up and running with the goods. Granted, they are right up by the sales counter so he is probably monitoring this activity, but I still avoid them like the plague.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, in what is becoming a weekly to bi-weekly tradition, I grab little Jacoby and we head to the hobby shop to dink around and see what's worth rippin for the week. This week I scanned the shelves and saw some Topps jumbo boxes. I know that these have been mainly where the cool hat patches are coming from and I really wanted one for myself, plus I am about 30 cards short of a full set at this point.

I asked the owner if he was willing to open a box and break em into individual packs. That's when he pointed to the Topps hobby box on the counter top, where two Jumbo packs were sitting on top of the remaining hobby box packs.

Immediately I broke into a cold sweat. Are these the leftover dummy packs for dummies to purchase?

After scouring around the store for something better, I decided "what the hell" and snagged the two jumbos, plus a new Beckett...and here is where it gets mucked up. I ALWAYS get something last second, and as he is adding up my purchase, I spontanously burst out "are you willing to bust open that new jumbo box and I will grab another pack from you". Of course he was, and he even let me pick which one I wanted. So I go home with three packs of Jumbo and a Beckett.

About a mile away from the store, dread hit me..(No I did not leave Jacoby in the store, though he would have had fun throwing around the junk shelf cards all day).

No, the dread was "Oh crap...WHY did I just turn down the opportunity to grab three packs out of the new box, with 3/10 odds of getting a hit, and take the counter packs and ONE from the new box instead"? He had even offered me three from the new box. My mind just blanked I guess.

So here I was with two potential dummy packs and ONE fresh from a jumbo pack. The two on the counter had price stickers, so I knew which ones I was screwed on. I went home to rip it open. I start with the first counter pack that I was stupid to buy, and what did I pull...

Holy cow! I looked at the wrapper again. Surely this must be a mistake! This could not have been the lousy bait and switch counter pack, could it? Well it was, and I was definitely very happy with this find. This card really draws me in with its old-school lettering. I love this card.

By the way, the other two packs (including the one from the fresh box) did not contain hits or SP's, but I was able to score some additional inserts for my folder, so all is good. I also redeemed the three code cards and was rewarded with some early 70's swag!

Crazy hobby.

Hockey Day?

Being that this is one of the few hockey cards that I have in my collection (well, temporarily anyways, this one is closing on eBay today) I thought that this would be a great do an Olympic update, which today is decidedly hockey-heavy. Today the USA takes on Canada, Russia takes on the Czech Republic, and Sweden takes on Finland. While I don't really follow hockey during the season, I will definitely be checking out these long as it does not interfere with curling!
The leaderboard continues to develop, and there have been several countries that have snagged surprising medals and vaulted teams up the ranks. Most notably South Korea (Grand Cards) Austria (Peterson) Norway (Mark's Ephemera), and The Netherlands and their impressive speed skating (Play at the Plate) have all made impressive leaps.
Meanwhile Slovenia (BA Benny), Latvia (Shue), and Switzerland (Roy) have chipped in enough to gain some extra entries for their owners.
Overall, the top 10:
1. United States (AceWild) 50 entries
2. Germany (Community Gum) 36 entries
3. Norway (Mark's Ephemera) 35 entries
4. South Korea (Grand Cards) 29 entries
5. Canada (Matthew) 23 entries
6. Austria (Peterson) 21 entries
7. France (The Wax Wombat) 20 entries
8. Russia (Nico) 17 entries. NOTE: yes, there are two Russia's. I have destroyed the editor.
9. Netherlands (Play at the Plate) 17 entries
10. Sweden (Jim) 16 entries
10. Switzerland (Roy) 16 entries
Still lots of time for movement as just a medal or two can propel a team up several spots. Enjoy the games!