Sunday, December 21, 2014

The dime box frankenset, Page 43: Numbers 379-387


Let's take a look at how last week's frankenset voting played out.

Win -- 1973 Topps #376 Frank Duffy (12 votes)

Place -- 1997 Topps #373 Jose Rijo (7 votes)

Show (tie) -- 1994 Upper Deck #371 Joey Cora, 1995 Collector's Choice #377 Lance Parrish (3 votes each)

Cards from the '90s dominate my frankenset, but the select '70s singles that pop up almost always seem to win their respective pages.

Last week was no exception, as Frank Duffy and that poor O's baserunner took the crown without much of a fight, garnering twelve of the 29 total votes. I came close to voting for Groundskeeper Jose, but I ended up agreeing with the masses this time around.

I couldn't bring myself go against such an awesome double dip, especially one of the vintage variety.




We're back to a full nine nominees now, thankfully.

It is my pleasure to present this week's special holiday frankenset page.



1993 Topps #379 Mike Munoz

Between the pose and the uniform, Topps certainly made this card as much of a throwback as possible. 



1990 Upper Deck #380 Vance Law

Sorry, Mr. Law, but you've got nothing on Johnny Bench.



2010 Topps #381 Miguel Montero

A nice post-PATP shot of one of the newest Cubs.



1994 Collector's Choice #382 Scott Leius

Pick a glove, any glove. 



1991 Line Drive #383 Gil Heredia

Minor league pitcher at the plate! 



2012 Sega Card-Gen #384 Daniel Descalso

Double dip? Check.

Throwback? Check.

Awesome Japanese oddball? Check again.



2014 Topps #385 Josh Willingham

A beautiful stadium shot makes this dugout celebration shine. 



1994 Score #386 Mike Devereaux

A rare "play at third" action shot. 



1995 Upper Deck #387 Don Slaught

This week's page closes out with a dust-filled play at the plate straight out of the Old West.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Have I become the random guy?


I admire people who can limit themselves to a few main focuses.

Team collectors, individual player collectors, set collectors, and all others, you have my infinite applause. 

Focus has never been my thing as a collector. Even when I was a kid, I'd chase after pretty much anything that piqued my interest. It was even worse, in a way, since I collected all four major sports. I guess you can say I am a more focused collector now that I'm all-in on baseball. Yeah, let's go with that.

I encourage people who send me cards to make their packages as random as possible. The less specific, the better. Plus, I'm glad people haven't taken "random" to mean I'll send this guy that big box of '89 Topps I have in the basement. That's random, right? No. Please, no.

Some people around the blogs might be known as this guy or that guy. I think I've unwittingly become the random guy during my time here. All I can say to that is BRING IT ON!

While he's much more focused than I am with his Cubs collection, my buddy Tom of the great blog "Waiting 'til Next Year" recently dropped a nice batch of random on me. Because everyone has a little random in them.

Though I actually requested this nifty Josh Donaldson die-cut from Tom a few weeks ago...




...everything else in the package was totally spontaneous.

The note Tom included said he won this stack of about a dozen 1976 Topps team issues as part of an Ebay auction not too long ago. The more I look at these, the more I think they might be the best team cards ever made. Just look at the way those colors pop.

It's safe to say that these definitely passed the random test.




And that was before I flipped them over.

Much to my surprise, I found that a corresponding decal was attached to every single team card Tom sent. That's a stroke of genius by what I assume was a young pre-teen collector from the '70s.

I'm not exactly sure of the origins of the decals themselves, but they certainly added a good deal of spice to these team cards.




The Arencibia is an action-packed new addition to my play at the plate mini-collection.

And, contrary to what Rickey might have you believe, the Blue Jays catcher is not a giant.

If you've never seen one of those early '90s Cracker Jack singles before, they are impossibly tiny. About a quarter the size of your standard 2 1/2 by 3 1/2-inch baseball card.

Minis are fine and good, but those bad boys take it to the extreme.




Yup.

I'm definitely the random guy.

The last thing that fell out of Tom's mailer was this custom-made pack of randomness. The fact that people go to such lengths to craft these special batches of cardboard for me means a lot. Being the random guy definitely has its perks.

And, hey, why waste your time with an eight-card pack of A&G when you can get a ten-card pack of randomness from Tom?




You certainly won't find cards of men on the moon in A&G, I'll tell you that much.

Plus, this gives me a good excuse for a musical interlude.




Randomness was definitely in full force with this pack.

Politicians, Tarzans, gymnasts, Gypsy Queens, and Carol Burnett.

How's that for a combo?




And, true to his word, Tom even threw in a mini for good measure.

I actually already have the complete set of these Topps 206 "Historical Events" inserts, but, as far as I can remember, I've never mentioned a word about them on the blog. If nothing else, this card reminded me to give those a chance to shine one of these days.

I'm trying to draw a straight line through all the cards I featured from Tom in this post, but I just can't do it. It's probably impossible.

That's the mark of a solidly random package right there.

It's good to be the random guy.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Into the Sunset: 2014 farewells


Another year, another batch of retirements.

Every passing season sees a bunch of players hanging up the cleats. As is the life cycle of baseball.

While some of the players we saw in 2014 Flagship might not ever play in the bigs again or get another baseball card (ahem, Jeff Francoeur, Dice-K), the guys you'll see in this post announced their voluntary retirements either after the 2013 season or sometime during 2014.

Maybe it's just me, but this past season seemed especially top-heavy in terms of retirees. Topps had a lot on their plate, and I'm happy to say they did a nice job of giving true finales to many of the established guys who played their last games in 2013.

I'll just say right now that "Mo" received the best sunset card of the year, and it wasn't even close.







While none of the photos on these other four are especially memorable, they'll each at least be remembered for being the true finales for a quartet of great players.

I've heard the argument that guys who retire after one season shouldn't get a card the next. And, before this year, Topps seemed to carry that train of thought as well. Guys rarely got true sunset cards. Even Carl Yastrzemski couldn't get one, for goodness sake. (I don't count this as truly honoring Yaz.)

For whatever reason, Topps switched gears this year by issuing a nice batch of true final tributes. I couldn't be happier about it. I personally believe every retired player should get a finale issued the following season.

Why?








Complete career stats, of course.

If Roy Halladay's last card was issued in 2013, we wouldn't get that last line of pitching numbers on the back. As mediocre as a lot of final seasons are (including Halladay's), sunset cards feel more special and gratifying with complete career stats on the back.

It's a little odd that Topps waited until Series 2 to release cards of Halladay and Dempster, but I'm glad they got true finales either way.

These guys deserved one last farewell from the world of cardboard.




Because of what we saw with Topps this year, I'm hoping most of baseball's 2014 retirees will pop up in 2015 checklists.

Just in case they don't, however, here's a look at the players who waved goodbye to the game this past season.

Paul Konerko's retirement hit home with me more than anyone else's in 2014. Paulie's been on his last legs for a couple years now, and anyone who follows the White Sox knows it was time for him to go.

But that sure won't make the sight of a Konerko-less Sox roster any less easier to swallow in 2015.

I don't know if I'll ever come to terms with it.




More than any other 2014 retiree, I'm hoping Topps slots Adam Dunn into their 2015 checklist.

Besides the whole career stats thing, a 2015 card would honor Dunn's time with the A's, something that Topps didn't get a chance to do this year since the trade went down so late in the season.

If not, I guess his 2014 issue won't be a total wash.

Looks like Dunn might be admiring one of his 462 career homers there.




Josh Beckett's retirement caught me a little by surprise.

He's only 34 and posted a solid 2.88 ERA in 20 starts during his shortened 2014 season, but I guess that's what a hip injury will do to you.

I know I'll always remember him for the 2003 World Series.

Still one of the single greatest postseason pitching performances I've ever seen.




Lyle Overbay was never a huge name during his career, but he's always been a huge name with me and my baseball cards.

Overbay was (and still is) the subject of one of my first big player collection quests, and I own exactly 157 of his cards as of this writing. The first baseman returned to one of his former stomping grounds in Milwaukee this past season, hitting .233 with four homers in 121 games.

This was his only card of 2014, courtesy of Topps Update. I was scared Topps would completely ignore him.

All I can say is thank God for Update.




Eric Chavez is another under the radar 2014 retiree.

A once-promising third baseman in Oakland, the last half-dozen years of his big league tenure were absolutely riddled with injuries.

The six-time Gold Glover ended up being a serviceable bench bat with the Yankees and Diamondbacks in the latter stage of his career, but he was a far cry from his former Oakland self. He called it quits after a 44-game stint with Arizona in 2014.

Oh, what could have been.




As great as the guy was, Bobby Abreu is the prime example of a player who probably held on for a little too long.

I don't blame big league ballplayers for wanting to milk every last ounce of their talent (and all those fat paychecks) before retiring. But the truth of the matter is that most guys end up playing well past their prime.

Abreu was completely out of baseball in 2013 after a miserable 2012 with the Angels and Dodgers. He latched on with the Mets in 2014 on a minor league deal and was surprisingly called back up to the show about halfway through the season, hitting .248 with one homer in 78 games in the Big Apple.

Years from now, we'll look back on Bobby Abreu's career and say...

When the heck did HE play for the METS?




Brian Roberts might be another When did he play there? guy in the years to come.

After spending the first 13 years of his career in Baltimore, Roberts signed with the Yankees in 2014. Sadly, he never really got going and was released in August after 91 games. He called it quits shortly after that.

Roberts is a lot like Eric Chavez, in that he had a few spectacular seasons before being plagued by injuries for the rest his career. I still remember cherishing a "Star Rookie" card of Roberts that I found in a flea market dime box as a kid. I couldn't have been older than 12 or 13 at the time.

I'm still not sure why I got so excited over it, but the card still safely resides in my collection to this day.




The name Alfonso Soriano probably leaves a sour taste in the mouths of a lot of Cubs fans.

He did actually put up some decent numbers during his time on the North Side, but he could never seem to live down that giant contract. I was always kind of neutral on him. In an era filled with headaches, Soriano had the misfortune to be viewed as the highest-priced headache for the Cubs.

A mid-season trade in 2013 sent the outfielder back to his original home with the Yankees, surprising everyone by hitting 17 homers in just 58 second-half games in the Bronx. However, he struggled in 2014, hitting just .221 in 67 games before being released in July.

I don't know if a lot of Cubs fans are fully over Soriano yet, but maybe they'll cool their jets in the coming years.




Of course, we have to address the big Yankee elephant in the room.

I don't know if you heard, but Derek Jeter retired in 2014. Weird, because I didn't hear MLB or MLB Network or ESPN or FOX or Telemundo mention a peep about it.

Okay, was Jeter's final season overhyped? You better believe it. Did I get sick of all the teary tributes after the first two days of the season? Yeah, probably.

Still, there's little denying that baseball saw arguably the biggest icon of the last 20 years leave the game in 2014. Derek Jeter is a surefire Hall of Famer, and he's the only Yankee to ever eclipse the 3,000-hit barrier. (Surprisingly.)

And, as much as it pains me to say this, he might well be the last one-team player in history. With the massive paydays that engulf free agency these days, it's doubtful we'll ever see another guy spend his entire career with one franchise.

I'm sure Topps will honor The Captain with a cardboard finale (or finales) in 2015. There's little doubting that.

No matter what your feelings are towards Jeter or the Yankees or whatever, I'm sure we can all agree that he's certainly deserving of a true ride off into the sunset.

Then again, so is everyone in this post. And a lot of other guys I didn't mention, for that matter.

After all, nothing pays tribute better than a baseball card.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Less is more


My message to card companies is fairly simple.

If you're going to gobble up the supplies it takes to make a baseball card, then you better have a good reason to print it.

I feel like companies have strayed further and further from this lately. We don't need three Yasiel Puigs in a 330-card set. We don't need four Jeters. It's just a waste of paper at that point. Fattening your checklist for the sake of fattening your checklist isn't helping anybody.

I guess that's the real reason I've praised Topps Total about 6,904 times over the course of this blog's history. I don't necessarily love the brand because of the large checklist itself. It's because Total had a reason for creating each of the 3,630 cards it printed over its four-year history.

Total gave the Tike Redmans and Tim Spooneybargers of the baseball world a chance to shine. Sets with smaller 200-card checklists didn't necessarily have the opportunity to do that.

Topps Total and its 990-card sets might be crazy, but it's a good crazy.




Still, there is a point where craziness can become outlandish in the world of baseball cards.

Upper Deck Fortyman toed that line. The brand's first release in 2002 totaled a whopping 1,182 cards. Its second (and final) set the following year was toned down to just 990 subjects.

Fortyman, as you might guess, featured nearly every player from each team's 40-man rosters. That's an effort I can get behind. However, much of each set's final 100-ish slots are are bulked up with pointless All-Star cards and other various subsets.

To me, that's when you start to bridge the gap between good and bad insanity.




Upper Deck's 2006 release might be the best example of that.

UD produced an unheard-of 1,250 cards over the course of three series in '06, easily the most in their history. It more than doubled their 550-card checklist from the year prior. This Austin Kearns is #1214 in the set. I can't say I own many cards with four-digit numbers on the back.

The set certainly featured a great variety of subjects, but, like Fortyman, there are quite a few pointless subsets and checklists mixed in as well. And, like the Topps syndrome these days, you'll find quite a few repeat players within those 1,250 cards.

I'm still torn on whether or not I should consider 2006 Upper Deck to be a noble effort or a crazy experiment.




However, a few select sets completely outdo everyone else in terms of sheer insanity.

And I'm not talking the good insanity, either.

These sets are pretty much the polar opposite of the old "less is more" proverb. There aren't many adjectives to describe what I'm about to present.

If 2006 Upper Deck and its 1,250-card checklist is crazy, then I'm not sure what to call 2008 UD Documentary. In case you aren't familiar with it, the set tried to commemorate every single game played during the 2007 MLB regular season.

If you do the math, that's a grand total of 4,890 different cards. You read that right. 4,890 cards.

Set builders, eat your heart out.




Oh, was that not insane enough for you?

Give Upper Deck's 2008 Yankee Stadium Legacy a try, then. In honor of Yankee Stadium's final season, UD produced a card honoring every single game played at The House That Ruth Built.

All 6,227 of them.

And, unlike Documentary, these were inserts, not base cards. A 6,227-card insert series.

That has to be the biggest set ever, right?




Nope.

At first glance, 1998 Topps Tek seems to be a fairly easy checklist to swallow. It's all of 90 cards.

If you take a closer look, however, you'll find that each of those ninety cards features ninety different acetate patterns on the front. I'm no math major, but let's see, ninety times ninety is...

8,100.

8,100 cards. As in almost two thousand more than the Yankee Stadium Legacy set. (Why did Topps decide to revive this brand again?)

Tek might be the best example of just how crazy the '90s were. I mean, a set with 8,100 cards? Come on.

Nothing can beat that.




Nothing, you say?

I'll point you in the direction of 2008 Topps Moments and Milestones. Like Tek, it doesn't look like anything special at first. Seems like your standard 189-card checklist.

Ah, but Topps decided to get creative with this set. Creative, as in...Let's make this set so insane that people can spend eighty years of their lives and still not be able to complete it.

You see, each base card is numbered to 150 copies and honors a particular milestone of a certain player. This one, for instance, commemorates "superstar" Jack Cust's 26 dingers in 2007. (Jack Cust? A superstar? That's so 2008.)

Seems simple, right? Nope. Each of Cust's 26 homers are honored with a separate card. There's one for his first homer, second homer, third...and so on. I just so happen to have the one that features his 24th homer of the season.

And this is the shallow end of the Moments and Milestones pool. There's a card for each of Frank Thomas's 513 career homers and Trevor Hoffman's 524 career saves. (Each stat current as of 2007.)

If you add it all up, a 2008 Topps Moments and Milestones "master set" comes out to a mind-blowing 12,569 cards. 

Remember what I said about card companies needing a reason to print every single card they make?

Yeah. I don't think any of these sets listened.

Maybe I should be thankful for only three Yasiel Puigs in Topps checklists these days.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One last attack on Dime Boxedonia


We all have pictures of this man on our windowsills in Dime Boxedonia.

This is King Wes of "Jaybarkerfan's Junk" fame. By now, you've probably heard of his crazy doings around the blogosphere. Perhaps you've even been the recipient of one of his insane packages, monstrosities, or Wampas.

Dime Boxedonia has been no stranger to his sneak attacks. The guy sent so many PWEs last year that our nation had to draw up a treaty. He's made his presence felt across every conceivable corner of the blogosphere, and none of us can thank him enough for his generosity.

Sadly, Wes recently decided to hang up his blogging cleats. Lots of other bloggers have already written great tributes to him. We Dime Boxedonians feel bad that ours had to come so late.

While it was far from necessary, Wes wanted to make sure his name would be remembered by our citizens for generations to come. Right around he announced his retirement from blogging, we found another package in the royal mailbox from the almighty Wes.

We'll say right off the bat that this awesome custom was the big coup of the batch, but, of course, Wes couldn't stop there.




Bobby Grich has quickly become one of the biggest celebrities of Dime Boxedonia.

He's quickly risen through our totally random ranks and managed to make quite a name for himself.

This sweet oversized UD BAT oddball adds to his legend.




Like so much of what Wes has sent over the years, this package revolved around the patriarch of Dime Boxedonia.

Vladimir Guerrero.

At over 600 different cards, Vlad is easily the most represented face of our binder system. Still, Wes always manages to find new pieces to add to the collection, like the one you see above.

That design has me thinking that Vlad is about to get sucked into another dimension.




We the people of Dime Boxedonia have made our dissension towards memorabilia cards clear over the past few years.

When it comes to Mr. Guerrero, though, we're more than happy to make an exception. We'll take anything of the fair Vlad.

Base cards, inserts, jerseys, shoes...




...even game-used bases.

We don't usually dabble in such aspects of the hobby. But, again, Vlad is always royalty in Dime Boxedonia. Always.

Besides, we rather like the design of this particular card, a rarity when it comes to memorabilia issues.

Way to make that base come to life, Fleer.




Manu-patches are another story.

Our history books are riddled with citizens banishing such manu-patches to secluded nations like Greedland and Pointlessistan. We don't tend to get along very well with them.

Some of us even doubted that Sir Vlad could save the wretched manu-patch from obscurity. But, after crowding around the Town Square to get a closer look, we've come to a decision.

The honorable Vlad can indeed make a manu-patch beautiful. It can be done.

We bow to his power.




O mighty Wes!

We will miss your presence around Dime Boxedonia and the entire blogging universe. We don't know where we'd be without you.

We wish you nothing but the best in the future.

Don't be a stranger. Check back with us whenever you can. Let us know where your travels take you.

You'll always be royalty in Dime Boxedonia.