Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup Recap: Day 2

Well, this was supposed to have been the first early morning for me with Greece and South Korea starting at 4:30 in the morning here. The alarm was set for 4:20 (wink) and I was all set to go...if not for the fact that I forgot to set the alarm button. That's sorta like doing all the math but forgetting to carry the zero. So at 5:00 my sleepy eyes fluttered awake and I did not join match #3 until the 35th minute. Oh well, consider today "spring training".

Greece vs South Korea

When I DID finally join the early morning game, here is what I saw...

I predicted last night before I went to bed that Korea was going to be full of short, FAST players, and I was pretty much right on the money. Greece looked like it was playing in mud. When I joined this game South Korea was already up 1-0 and running up and down the field with reckless abandon (though mostly keeping it downfield in scoring position). Greece just seemed listless until South Korea scored it's second goal. At that point Greece seemed to move much faster and played with more of a sense of urgency, but by that point it was clearly too late to rally. This game represents the first win in the tournament and three entries and two goals for The Brooklyn Met, who, at this point is the entry leader. I have to say that I am a bit interested to see how South Korea continues from this point forward. Their speed seems pretty endless.

Nigeria vs Argentina

Two words sum up the theme of this match...Diego Maradona

If I could describe Maradona, he is basically the Ozzie Guillen of soccer coaches. There were just endless shots of Maradona chattering, and cheering, and running up and down the sideline, and grabbing the ball and handing it to players...on both teams...for throw-ins. It is clear that Diego still wants to be out on that field, and it is fun to watch.

As for the game itself, watching Argentina was probably the first team that was showing off Harlem Globetrotter-like ball-handling abilities, with multiple head and chest passes, and wicked crossovers. Argentina has a lot of skill and had several great shots. From a casual fan perspective though, I would say that a lot of their near-goal chances seemed a bit disorganized and leaned a lot on Lionel Messi, who took a majority of his team's shots, and was not even the player who scored the amazing header in the opening minutes. IMHP I think that they need to spread the ball around a bit more near the goal.

As for Nigeria, it really is too bad that there was a win from South Korea in the other group matchup, because I think that Nigeria actually looked really good and had some really close shots. It will be interesting to see how they do on their second matchup, as it will be a must-win to advance.

United States vs England

Well bollocks! While I know that the United States is certainly no world soccer powerhouse, you should always pull for the home team, right? And while this 1-1 tie (thank you Robert Green) can be considered a victory of sorts, I would have to say that a win would have made a much smoother ride for the rest of the round-robin. Algeria and Slovenia hit it up early tomorrow and there is a good chance that one of those teams walks away with three points and leads the entire group. I would have to say that if you are a fan of the US, you would most likely hope for a tie tomorrow.

I did not think the US played great, in fact their goalie was under fire for much of the game, especially the second half. While he looked shaky for the beginning of the second half, as the game came to a close he just looked tough as nails. Still though, a lot of close calls and a lot of work needs to be done going into their next game.

What I learned: Al Franken coaches and Flea plays for England?

Who knew?

Summary of the day:

The Good: A very entertaining match between Nigeria and Argentina

The Bad: I found ONE lousy pack of Panini stickers at Target, and forgot to set my alarm, not necessarily in that order.

The unsung heroes of the World Cup: Let's hear it for the dedicated security at the game venues. These guys, who got a chance to host a World Cup in their country, and actually get to be on the pitch at the games...are forced to keep their backs to the action of the game they love for the entire 90 minutes as they scan the crowd for security concerns. Hats off to these guys for keeping everybody safe, if it were me I would be way too tempted to sneak a peak over my shoulder at the action.

While World Cup is clearing a focus for me at this time, I still gotta rip some wax! Yesterday as I settled in for some opening day soccer, I decided that it was finally time to purchase the lonely box of 2007 Turkey Reds from a dusty corner on Cranky's shelves.

I am a huge fan of Turkey Red inserts, and have gathered a few of the 2007 through trades, but have never seen a reasonable cross-section of this product. I am glad I made the purchase. While there are several cards of great quality images, as well as some stinkers as well (have you seen the Chase Utley? He kinda looks like Abe Vigota), I will stick with the hits. I am unclear on whether I made out like a bandit or not, as the box indicates some mixture of two relics or autos. Here are the goods. Let me know if you are interested in any of these...

You can't tell from the scan, but above are four chromes/refractors that I really liked. The Uggla and Beckett are refractor versions.

Here are a couple relics of Swisher and Marcus Giles. These are fairly nice looking I guess, for worthless relics :)

Whoa, after the relics I did not expect this at all. A nice "on-sticker" auto of the rabble-rouser himself! A very nice edition.

Then I hit a thick pack that clearly would not take an expert pack-searcher to indicate that something thick was inside. Since Topps is not know for crazy-thick dummy cards, I knew that I had one surprise left...
Nice! A Jimmy Rollins "auto" silk collection! this is my second silk pull since starting collecting. I love the color scheme of this card quite a bit.

So that was a really fun box for sure. There are all sorts of possibilites for 9-spots for the ol' binder.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Day 1 Recap:

Well, day one of World Cup action has come to a close. I bagged out of work early with a cold a laid around on the sofa for the first 180 minutes (plus penalty) of World Cup action. I am afraid to say that the World Cup already has it's first established villain, and that is...

...the vuvuzela. Yes, gone are the days of chanting, and drumming and clapping and whistling, and arrived are the days of blowing, and blowing, and blowing....for the entire match. It's pretty funny to hear a constant buzz suddenly cease as a shot on goal occurs as the crowd gasps...gathers their wits, and then commences blowing their damn precious vuvuzela.

Here is a brief recap of the day's games.

South Africa vs Mexico

Group A ruled the day. After an opening ceremony filled with technical difficulties and vuvuzela-induced-drowned-out-commencement-speeches, the action got underway. You always gotta feel good for the host country, and South Africa played their hearts out to a 1-1 draw against Mexico, who pushed the pace for the entire match and held a 65%-35% edge on possession. Early in the second half we got to witness this...

A nice little coordinated jig that would have made Glee happy after an early second half runaway goal....and the vuvuzela's played...after the gasp! Mexico kept patient and methodical and found a way to tie the game around the 80th minute. If I understand the stat correctly, no host nation has ever lost it's first match...and that continued here.

Uraguay Vs France

France, how do you say not exactly the Cinderella team of the tournament. Controversy surrounded their qualification for the tourney. Now, I must admit something here. When it comes to watching World Cup, especially in scoreless games, it can take a few games (I venture to say five), to get used to the slower, methodical pace of the that being the case I have a very foggy recollection of minutes 33-44 of the first half. A little cat nap :). So we have Uraguay who is a little shark in the big Group A bowl, and even as yellow and red cards flew around the field, they held their own for a 1-1 tie with Le France.

So day one is done. For those of you that drew a group a team, your three extra entries are going to have to wait at least until the next match, although a couple of you earned entries for a tie and a goal, which is better than a poke with a stick.

Today in summary:

The Good: The Espn stadium crews. Very blunt, honest, funny, and entertaining stuff. Top-notch. Quote of the day: "He struck the ball well, but his radar was a little wonky".

The Bad: Vuvezelas!

The world watches.... I sit at my desk and DVR the opening match between South Africa and Mexico. As I have said before, my goal is to watch the entire world cup, every match, every minute, and soak it all in before it's gone for another four years. I thought it would be kinda fun to journal as I go (thus the italics). For one, I am going stealth with my friends and coworkers that I am interested in soccer, in hopes to avoid the unfortunate slipping of the score. Feel free to comment or ask questions as the weeks go along. I should be pretty well versed in the beautiful game before all is said and done. I will still post regular baseball card blogs as well. They will appear in regular text. See how that works?

Okay, Day 1. As the gods would have it, a cold that I have been fighting off all week is starting to take it's toll and I am pretty much going to take care of some necessities at work and then hit the sofa and rest and catch today's action on a not-so-very delayed basis. The reality has also sunk in that I am pretty much bagging sleeping in on the weekend for the next month. It's not as bad for you East-Coasters, but here in Oregon, game 1 each day starts at a brisk 4:30 am. Woo-hoo! During World Cup South Korea, I was finding myself up at 330 am consuming Totino's party pizzas.

Anyways, not much to report at this point except that Soccer City Stadium looks like an "everything" bagel. mmm, bagel. I am hungry and sick. Gonna bust out some work and then bust out of work. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who is your Shin Shoo Choo?

So as I was watching the Sox play against Cleveland last night, I saw Shin Shoo Choo and it brought back memories of all the Shin Shoo Choo relics that I have pulled in the last year (like the one below, of which I have pulled this card on three separate occasions and decided to finally just keep one). I can't seem to get away from this guy.

My second Choo is Vlad Guerrero. I practically pulled the rainbow of Vlad in Goodwin (am still missing the foil if anybody has it), SP Legendary cuts, Topps 2009, Sweet Spot 2009, Topps unique, and SP authentic. He is actually probably more my Choo than Choo himself.
Thirdly, but no pictured is Howie Kendrick. Definitely had my fair share of Kendrick float past my hands.

These are just guys that are destined to always show up in my packs.

So the question goes out to you...who is your Choo?

How did that Million Card Stasburg work out for ya?

Yeah, me too. In fact, if rumor be true, these cards were not even yet available when I entered my code. Topps continues to take it to the man.

Regardless, I did not fair too poorly considering the 950,000 crappy cards available. I scored me a couple 50-year old rookie wax...

I know there are some collectors out there of this set, so if these help you out, send me an email.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Strasburg Mania hits fever pitch!

I just love having an excuse to post this card again. I was also lucky enough to pull the chrome base, but I really like the look of this card better with the silver autograph.

So tomorrow is the big day. Stasburg hits The Show and the entire nation waits to see what happens next. Apparently the mania has also hit the Million Card giveaway, as apparently after Strasburg's first pitch is thrown, a photo of that pitch will become Strasburg's official first rookie card and will become redeemable immediately following the pitch. I have to say that I am a bit skeptical about what exactly is going to be released....or more specifically how many. This sounds like a blatant attempt to force people to A) quickly buy more product B) quickly buy more code cards, C) quickly redeem those bad boys to make sure that as many of these are used up as possible....well I am biting and I will burn my seven that I have stockpiled... though I have some serious doubts as to exactly how many of these Topps is going to make available. Guess there is only one way to find out.

I want to pop on the ol' swami hat and make a couple predictions about what will come to be from Strasburg. For you investment folks, I am willing to bet that you will see a growing return on the card for about the next year. Where do I pull that out of? Well, the way I see it, Strasburg is going to show up tonight with some seriously wicked stuff that nobody has ever seen before. Actually, practically ANY pitcher that Veterans have never seen is going to have the upper-edge initially in gameplay. It takes time for hitters to figure a pitcher out, unless he stinks, which Strasburg certainly does not.

So you have to figure that he will dominate teams on his virgin run, then come fall he may start to see some teams again, and they may start to have a bit more success, but then the season will end, everybody will hit the reset button, and then in the spring he will come in again and proceed to baffle guys left and right...but wait until about June or July when teams have scouting reports, video tape, and some at-bats against him and things should start to level out a bit. Look at Timmy Jim and his recent struggles. So enjoy the ride now but get out before the bubble bursts next summer.

My other prediction? I suspect that this Stasburg rookie card start is an attempt to stimulate card redemptions. My strong suspicion is that collectors are starting to wise up about WHEN to redeem and are waiting to see some vintage wax before they try to redeem. As a result, Topps is most likely sitting on a pile of junk wax that they are desperate to push...and I betcha they do it tonight. So go ahead and redeem those codes after first pitch tonight, but be prepared for some mass-produced flimsy to go with it!

The swami has spoken.