Saturday, January 23, 2016

January 2016 TTM Mailbag

It's hard to believe that in just over a week, I will be living in a different country. I don't think that is going to fully hit me until I get to Italy next week. There is still quite a bit of work that needs to be taken care of before I set sail (metaphorically), but it's right around the corner now and I couldn't be more excited to see what life looks like from the other side of the pond.

In January, I've gotten three through the mail successes, continuing my recent surprisingly hot stretch. All of these requests were initially sent as late as this past summer. I don't have exact dates because of an iPhone update gone horribly wrong. 

Clint Frazier: 1/1

No offense to the following two successes, but this was by far my favorite of this mini-bunch. I've been a fan of Clint Frazier since the Indians drafted him in 2013. He's only 21 years old and ranks as one of the organization's top all around prospects. Frazier batted .285 in high A ball and was also successful in this past year's Arizona Fall League. I hope he continues his good fortune and becomes an everyday player for the Tribe!

Pat Leahy: 1/1

Here's a fun trivia question for you all: Who leads the Jets in points scored over their history? Hint: It's this guy right here, Pat Leahy. It would make sense, considering he was their kicker from 1974 all the way until 1991. Leahy even ranks 22nd among all players in recorded football history in scoring, ranking among many of the league's finest kickers. He signed this 1990 Pro Set nicely in black sharpie, and was one of the final Jets I had to sent to last year that I hadn't gotten back yet.

Shawn Chacon: 2/2

The Lost Collector recently got back from the former journeyman, and I was particularly jealous. Little did I know, I would receive two cards back myself just days later. I remember Chacon fondly for his brief period in New York because I was just getting into baseball around that time. He pitched in a few of the first games I ever went to, and I grew to like him. Unfortunately, just as he was growing on me, he was dealt to Pittsburgh for utility infielder Craig Wilson. Both the 2006 Topps and Topps Heritage were signed in green sharpie, which is certainly a unique touch among my growing autograph collection.

Thank you Clint Frazier, Pat Leahy, and Shawn Chacon for the autographs!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

All Star Stitches

Relics don't really have the same appeal they once did to me. There have been so many controversies in regards to where the "game used material" comes from to the point where I'm generally driven away from buying them. I'm even at the point where I'd rather add a colorful parallel of a player I collect over having a piece of their bathroom towel or socks or whatever Topps and Panini are using.

One of the best relic sets every year to me is the All Star cards in Topps' annual Update Series. I like some diversity in my player collections, and typically most of the jersey swatches placed on their cards look pretty similar. But the All Star ones can be bright and on the complete opposite end of the color spectrum from what they typically don throughout the course of the regular season. I recently added two cards of this nature, the first on Check Out My Collectibles and the second from eBay.

2013 Topps Update Prince Fielder All Star Stitches

I've had a few of these cards on my want list ever since they came out in 2013. I was lucky enough to attend that year's Home Run Derby and watch my favorite sluggers duke it out in Citi Field. Prince Fielder was a favorite to win, and was one of my favorite players at the time (still very much up there). He didn't make it as far into the competition as we hoped, but the power display Yoenis Cespedes provided Queens that night was enough to make up for it. It's pretty cool in retrospect to think that just two years later Cespedes helped lead the Mets to the World Series.

I highly doubt this was the jersey Fielder wore during the Derby, but it's close as it's going to get for me. That was one of the best days of my life, and I'm glad I have another token to remember it by. This cost me maybe $2.

2015 Topps Update Joe Panik All Star Stitches

It's hard to believe that a player can make such a quiet splash into the league. Joe Panik helped lead the Giants to an unforgettable World Series victory in his rookie year, and followed up by making the All Star team the next season. I hope this is the first of many for Joe, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was. I talk him up a great deal because we rarely get major league quality talent in my neck of the woods, but he really is evolving into one of the best second basemen in the National League. If he can put together a full, healthy season, I feel like he can bring in some hardware.

Most fans don't get much out of the All Star Game, and I understand why. The game means too much for the World Series but usually isn't as thrilling as the stakes would entail. On top of it all, interleague play is so common that it's not as exciting to see these players face off. I still enjoy seeing the players I've admired for years honored annually, and I hope that feeling stays with me for a while. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mail from It's Like Having My Own Card Shop!

Hey everyone, so much for a grand start to the year. With all of this constant planning for my European adventure about to set sail in less than 2 weeks, I haven't had much time to blog. Thankfully, my buddy Daniel of It's Like Having My Own Card Shop randomly asked for my address and sent along a whole lot of Yankees cards I've never seen. Daniel is one of the mainstays our blogosphere has enjoyed the company of for several years, and has fantastic Diamondbacks collections.

I absolutely love the occasional care package, especially when I get to pick through dime box quality inserts and parallels. Daniel gave me that chance, but I didn't even have to choose between cards or get my wallet out!

There appears to be a difference between the material released today versus ten years ago. It seems like there are a never ending influx of insert cards that came out in the early to mid 2000's that I've never seen. I wasn't much of a collector until 2005, when I first got into baseball. So being able to add various inserts of the Yankees I grew up watching as a kid that I've never seen is always enjoyable.

Many of the cards Daniel sent over were short printed. My favorite obscure parallels were the 2003 Donruss Black and White Exhibit cards of Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi. The Mussina is numbered 30/63 copies, whereas the Giambi is 14 of only 46 in existence. They're unique cards of two players I got to know really well over the years. Here's to hoping Moose makes it into the Hall of Fame one day.

The final card I wished to highlight from Daniel's care package was this awesome Eric Chavez 2013 Topps camo parallel numbered 61 of 99. 2013 was the first year Topps brought camo parallels to their flagship baseball sets. In 2014, they did something very similar, and in 2015 went with the "Snow Camo" look. This is my first of any of the three, and I really like it! Granted, Chavez won't be known for his Yankee years, but he did have a few noteworthy moments in pinstripes.

Thank you so much Daniel for a really fun package! I'm going to do my best to return the favor before I leave!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Severino (+ Sabathia) Sunday: January Edition

What a wild weekend for the NFL. All three road teams have won thus far into Wild Card Weekend, and we have witnessed the strengths and weaknesses of the league as a whole. The Bengals organization was a complete embarrassment last night against a gritty Steelers team that barely held on to win. Earlier today, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a game winning field goal opportunity to allow the Seahawks to advance. Seattle will take on the Carolina Panthers next week.

In hobby related news, I added some more cards of Luis Severino to my collection. It may be Football Sunday, but it is also Severino Sunday!

2014 Bowman Chrome Green Refractor 74/75

2015 Topps Pro Debut Orange Parallel 6/25

2015 Bowman's Best High-Def Heritage Orange Parallel 5/25

I'm beginning to compile a very orange Severino collection. However, in recent years most Bowman and Topps products limit orange refractors and parallels to just 25 copies. The only lower parallels commonly outside of 1/1's are red parallels, which are normally numbered out of just 5. The Pro Debut and Bowman's Best cards are the 4th and 5th orange parallels in my PC, and will hopefully not be the last. I'd rather buy the lowest numbered cards when I can find them for cheap costs over just about anything else. But once in a while, I have to splurge.

2015 Bowman Inception Jumbo Patch Autograph 41/50

I bought this card several months ago, and somehow never showed it off. This is my current favorite Severino card that I own and probably will be for quite a while. The patch is bright, differing from the common base colors of blue and white you see on most Yankees relics. The relic should be from the 2014 Future's Game, but who really knows anymore. It still looks pretty cool if you ask me. I really like the way the Yankees have worked this kid into their rotation. Everyone knows how good he can be, but until the team becomes a World Series contender again he will likely be overlooked. This should give him the chance to work his way into becoming the potential ace the Yankees need.

I don't believe this season's team has a true "ace" caliber pitcher. Masahiro Tanaka is a good pitcher but doesn't appear to be any better than a #2 or #3 in the rotation. Their former ace is towards the end of his deal, and shocked us all when he left the team late last season to treat his alcoholism in rehab.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Triple Relic Autograph Gold Parallel 8/9

CC Sabathia has given the Yankees an awful lot over his seven year stint in the Bronx. His overall record with the team is 97-56 with a 3.73 ERA. He's made three All Star teams and has finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three times. If he were to retire today, he would be viewed as a Yankee great and a borderline Hall of Fame pitcher. I'm not going to let his alcoholism affect my admiration for the man and player he has been for much of years as a fan. In fact, I think he did the right thing by treating his issue and I really hope rehab has gotten him back on track. Who knows, perhaps he'll get back to his winning ways next year if all goes well.

I was able to find this card at the White Plains Thanksgiving show for $30, and I worked the seller down to $20. I'll do that any day for an autograph this nice of a Yankee great such as C.C. I love the three different relic colors, and that it is only numbered to 9 copies.

Luis Severino and C.C. Sabathia may be on different career paths at this point, but I would be so happy if Severino became the workhorse C.C. has been. I felt like it was only right to include the big lefty in this edition of 'Severino Sunday'.

Enjoy the rest of Wild Card Weekend!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Pieces to the Panik Puzzle

I'm beginning to notice a trend with my two main player collections. Whenever I type "Joe Panik" into eBay, I typically sift out all of the parallels and focus primarily on autographs and relics. Meanwhile, I'm collecting any licensed cards I can find of Severino. I've made an effort to add some of his lower numbered parallels when products first hit eBay, because they wind up costing much less if you buy them early. I was a little late to collecting Panik, and he was a part of just about every set Topps released last year. In an effort to make up for time lost, I've been grabbing some of his higher end cards and waiting to fill in the remaining cracks later. Here are two recent examples of such:

2014 Topps Heritage Real One Autograph RC

I've wanted this card for over a year now, and I finally made it mine after Frankie's amazing Christmas gift allowed me to sell my Bowman Panik base autograph. I simply don't have the budget to have multiples of higher end issues, so it made much more sense to sell my duplicate and replace it with a card I needed. I believe the base version of this Heritage card is considered Panik's official "rookie card", although that whole concept is extremely tough to comprehend these days. Heritage is one of my favorite Topps products, and the 1965 set the design is based on may just be my all time favorite card design. This pickup was as much of a win-win scenario as it gets.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Framed Autograph

Allen & Ginter has worn out its welcome. I remember being so excited to buy a hobby box every year of it, but now I only seek out singles of my team and player collections. I always enjoyed doing the annual Gint-A-Cuffs contest within the community, but the product felt so recycled that my ambition drew thin. I'll grab some of the obscure cards and try to get them signed TTM. But the excitement A&G once brought feels like its worn away. Then again, my box breaking days are just about behind me. I've taken too much interest in collecting specifics and liquifying my collection that it simply does not make sense to budget my collection around ripping wax. Stadium Club was the lone exception to this position I've taken, and that was courtesy of my Dad and undoubtedly the product of the year in 2015.

Regardless, I got a steal for a deal on this framed autograph and it looks awfully nice to me. I know if I pulled this card, I'd be satisfied, but there are very few names in the checklist I would've been happy with. I guess that's just part of what comes with getting older and taking a budget seriously.

Where do you all stand as far as buying and breaking boxes of cards go? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below! And please, keep spreading the word about the new site if it all possible. I appreciate every last bit of your help!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Hypothetical 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot

There are so many sacrifices I would make in order to have a Hall of Fame vote. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it would be my lifelong dream. Tomorrow, we will learn of the 2016 Hall of Fame class, and as usual I'm glued to any videos/articles I can find about who has the best chances of being immortalized in Cooperstown. It doesn't appear that there will be a mega-class comparable to the past two years. We will at least see one or two players inducted, with potential for more.

Here is what my ballot would like if the Hall of Fame was kind enough to lend me a vote:

*Bold = Predicted Induction

1. Ken Griffey Jr.

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The Kid will be a Hall of Famer by tomorrow. If there's one thing that can be assured, it's that. The more interesting question is whether he will obtain 100% of the vote. The Hall of Fame did knock out about 150 voters in a new rule that states the writers can only be eligible to vote if they covered the game within the previous decade. This most likely eliminated many of the pompous purist voters who have been stuck in the past. The most popular Hall of Fame inductee since Cal Ripken Jr. in 2007 should have a chance at the highest voting percentage ever recorded, but there's always "that guy" that finds a way to rain on the parade. Nobody revolutionized pop culture inside and outside of baseball like Griffey, and let's not forget how incredible of a talent he was. Just imagine what he would have done without his injury history.

2. Barry Bonds

3. Roger Clemens

If you've read my blog in the past, you know that I am among the growing voting population who believes that PED users should be recognized in the Hall. I don't condone use of steroids or any form of Performance Enhancing Drugs. I don't like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens very much, and you can use the honor system against my case if you would like (I completely understand the opposing viewpoint). Major League Baseball turned their backs on the steroid debacle in the late 1990's and early 2000's to make money off of their famed sluggers. It helped them reestablish their value among the sports industry after an embarrassing strike cut short what would have been a memorable season in 1994. Eventually, they had no choice but to put an end to the fiasco; incriminating the players they applauded for the sake of the law.

There are too many different stories and controversies involving the Steroid Era that will never be told. Players may be inducted who have cheated but were never caught. The truth will most likely not be revealed any time in the near future, and I honestly feel like this museum should incorporate all of its history: the good and the bad. I can understand Pete Rose being held out for breaking the cardinal sin of baseball and not quite seeming to have ever understood what he did wrong. But I'm not on board with the wishy-washy decision making and denouncing of players who simply did what everyone else was doing.

Look at it from this perspective: if someone is running a daycare, and one child begins to misbehave; most of the others will more than likely join in the fun. If the person in charge of keeping the children in line doesn't make a valiant effort to try and stop it, the blame should be placed on them. It is their responsibility to control the situation. Baseball players are adults, but many have been raised differently than the average person. Before you take your next jab at players from this generation for cheating the game, just remember that they weren't enforced against it, and they weren't kept in line until drug testing was rampant throughout the sport.

So, can Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens make the Hall of Fame? Without question. Will they? Eventually, yes, but not for some time.

4. Mike Piazza

5. Jeff Bagwell

These two will forever be paired in infamy for being held out of the Hall of Fame based on suspicion alone. Bagwell was one of the most consistent all around hitters of the Steroid Era, while Piazza may just be the greatest offensive catcher there ever was. I do believe Piazza will get his due this year and barely make it in, while Bagwell remains on the brink for another year. Lest we forget, innocent until proven guilty. I don't see why either of these guys should have to wait any longer; cheaters or not.

6. Tim Raines

Supposedly, Rock Raines is off to a hot start with this year's election. He will be off the ballot after next year, and is the first borderline Hall of Famer whose totals will be affected by the Hall's eligibility year decrease from 15 years to 10. He may have overstayed his welcome a bit too long, but he was productive for a very long time. He's been held out because he isn't Rickey Henderson, if we're being honest. Even Rickey would see past his own reflection and realize how unfair that is.

I hope he makes it, but I suspect that he will fall just short and will look to make a final stand next year. Bert Blyleven made it in his second to last attempt, proving that a voter's opinion can (and should) change about given players over time. The common mantra "You don't know what you've got until it's gone" applies here. We may never see a leadoff hitter as explosive as Henderson or Raines. That is all the qualification a player needs to be inducted, to me.

7. Curt Schilling

8. Mike Mussina

Two pitchers who faced off against the largest players in recorded history their entire careers should be viewed as underdogs. In fact, most of them are. But players like Schilling and Mussina were able to overpower dominant hitters with dominant stuff for a lengthy period of time. Mussina notably pitched his entire career in the AL East, what was probably the most competitive division of that time. The Hall of Fame shouldn't judge a player by what would have happened if. These two pitchers were able to put up numbers comparable to many already enshrined during such a difficult period to pitch. I fully support both of their campaigns, though I'd much rather root for Moose over the often controversial Schilling.

9. Trevor Hoffman

Hoffman is to Mariano Rivera what Raines is to Rickey Henderson. Considering several other comparable closers are already enshrined, it should make sense to induct him as well. Give me one more year to decide on Billy Wagner though. I don't think Hoffman will make it this year but he should relatively early in his balloting years. The save statistic may be outdated in today's game, but 601 saves is quite the feat.

I only decided to place 9 players on my ballot this year, but could've chosen from either Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, or Fred McGriff for the 10th spot. My expectation is to see Griffey and Piazza make it, but I wouldn't be surprised if Raines and/or Bagwell do too. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing what results.

Who is on your hypothetical ballot for this year, and how do you feel about PED's in the Hall of Fame? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Hot Corner 2016 Goals

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a safe night, as mine was pretty unforgettable. I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to discuss some of my hobby related goals for 2016, so what better way to kick off the new year then overwhelm myself with new tasks and goals.

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- First and foremost, I will be leaving the country and spending the next four months roaming across Europe with one of my best friends. This is through a study abroad program my college offers, and I can honestly say I've never been more excited for anything in my life. It's going to be a fantastic opportunity, and my primary goal of the year is to make the trip as worthwhile as can be. If this trip affects the following goals listed, so be it. Opportunities like this are once in a lifetime, and I'm going to live it up. I plan on still blogging while I'm away, but I don't know how often or what I will get to share with you quite yet.

- As of now, I am primarily collecting any and all Joe Panik cards. I currently have 23 unique cards of his, and I'd like to add 37 more by year's end. This will bring me to a total of 60 different cards. Of the 37, I will strive for 10 autographs and 5 relic cards.

- I also started collecting any licensed Luis Severino cards in August, and I was able to collect 39 different cards (8 autographs) of the young Yankees hurler. By the end of 2016, I'm going to attempt to add 61 more cards for a grand total of 100. Of the 61, I will try for 8 more autographs and 4 relics.

- I'm going to make my best effort to go to the National in Atlantic City with my Dad over the summer, depending on how I'm doing financially after my trip abroad. It would be great to get to see William, Frankie, and possibly meet Andrew!

- At the moment I have 21 different Hall of Fame signed baseballs. In 2015, I added 3 to my collection over the summer (Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, & Eddie Murray). Next year, I'm going to try for 4 more balls, which would put me at 25 in total.

- My Mickey Mantle signed 16x20 photo currently bears 56 signatures and does not have room for many more. In 2015, I added Tino Martinez, Tim Raines, Don Larsen, and Jim Leyritz at MAB's Pinstripe Pandemonium. With limited space left, I only want to add quality names to the photo at this point. We're going to shoot for 2 more in 2016.

- The Ten for Tuesday series didn't necessarily take off as much as I wanted it to when I first introduced it in April, but I had a fun time doing them when I had time to kill. I originally wanted to do it every week, but well, school. I'm going to try to do one list per month.

- I want to cover more baseball related topics as was mentioned in my Year in Review post last night. Similar to last year, I want to discuss my Hall of Fame ballot and preview the upcoming season division by division. One of my favorite parts of 2015 was going back to my original predictions and seeing just how horrible of a job I did. Maybe I'll improve next year. Maybe.

- I'm going to continue contributing to my school's newspaper with posts about baseball. I would cover the school's Varsity Athletics, but I don't think that would be a simple task from the other side of the world. Instead, another big goal of mine is to land an internship for next summer. There's a local newspaper that I would especially like to work with, and hopefully that can give me a better taste of the journalism world.

- I want to figure out how to further market my blog and possibly begin using Adsense. Now that I've purchased my own domain, it would be nice to be able to make enough money to pay for the annual fees of maintaining the site. In addition, I would like to at least add 100 more followers on Twitter, since that has become the primary way I've been able to share my posts within the community.

- My final goal is to continue to build off of all the great friendships I've made through this community and get to know more of you! I absolutely love the group that we've developed through Blogger over the years, and while some sites may come and go there are still quite a few mainstays. This will be my 8th full year on Blogger and my 9th year blogging. Time really does fly.

I look forward to the possibility of another fantastic year! Now, it's time to open up eBay and get cracking. This could be dangerous.

PS: I would greatly appreciate if you can all add this new link to your blogroll and remove "drewscards"! This blog transition has been planned for a while but I was always worried about losing my readership in the process. I'd like to make this move as seamless as I can, and anything you can do to spread the word would mean a lot! Thank you!