Friday, October 24, 2014

Trimming the Fat

I have to admit that over the past number of years I have grown fat and happy (figuratively, of course). I have been employed by the same company for the past twenty-five years and have never been too worried about job security, while my wife has been able to stay home to raise the kids without the need to work outside the home. She has worked for the past two-and-a-half years, but that was mainly due to the boredom that had settled in as the kids have grown. The reason she has been able to stay at home? Well, it certainly isn't because I'm Mr. Moneybags.

For the past twenty years, my wife has received a monthly annuity from an auto accident suffered while in college. While going home one weekend, she was hit head-on by a driver who had fallen asleep and crossed-over into her lane. She woke up from a coma quite a few days later. I didn't know her at the time, but from the pictures I've seen and the stories I've heard, it's a miracle that she even survived. Physical pain has lingered ever since, she never finished college, and having her in the passenger seat can be adventurous at times (when a car gets too close for comfort)- but hey, it did afford us the luxury of her being home. A blessing in disguise, as some would call it.

Anyway, we were recently informed that we would be receiving one more annuity deposit (which we have since received). Not the end of the world, as she has been working.

Until earlier this week.

Shortly before her workday was to begin on Monday, she was notified that she was being laid off; and now, for the first time in all our years together, we face an uncertainty regarding finances. I have to admit that I'm more than a little worried. I'm by nature a pessimist and all of a sudden I began thinking we will never gain that income back. I know, silly, but that's how I'm wired. We have money set aside- but a lot of it is for our daughter's education and we certainly don't want to dip into that. So what's a guy to do until this employment situation is settled? Trim the fat, of course.

Perhaps you've been in the same situation and were faced with a similar decision. When it comes to survival, it's certainly an easy call.

For me, the first thing to trim is my card allowance. That means not only is the amount I set aside going to change, but more importantly, what I add to the collection will change.
Just a brief outline of what my collecting focus for the time being will look like:

I. Team Sets ~ Continue to work on current team sets

Flagship Topps team sets for the Braves: Three separate releases over the course of the year, making it easy enough to continue doing. May have to forgo the Brave inserts, though.

Heritage: Those damn SP's and High Number team sets might be my down fall. Well, as long as I am patient and wait a few months, the SP prices will certainly fall back down to bargain prices. Again, attainable.

Archives: Depending on the years they revisit and whether or not there are short prints. May have to skip over this so that I can have a little more to go towards....

II. Player Collections

my most recent Chipper pick-up. $7.50 and free s/h

This is where my collection will take the biggest hit, as far as adding new cards to the collection. These can be the most expensive and offers the most choices, as far as what to buy. I even recently thought out loud about the possibility of adding new players to the collection. Well, I can put that on hold for the time being. Since I'm a Topps team set collector, the player collections do allow for a few cards from the other varying sets that I otherwise wouldn't pick up.

III. Oddballs/Food-Issues and Regional Sets

 at least they're inexpensive!

These would be harder for me to give up than player collections. Thankfully, many of the food-issues and oddballs from the 80s/90s can be had cheap. Regional sets and anything older from the genre can be a little- okay, a lot more- pricy than the newer releases. Gotta try to keep adding to the inventory for my Base(ball) Oddity and Food-Issue Friday posts.

Going Shopping

One thing I seriously need to reconsider is the eBay app. It offers an easy way to watch auctions and BIN products. Instead, I need to be like the coupon crazed bargain hunters- only for me it will be utilizing Sportlots, finding which sellers have the most cards I want and take advantage of the low prices along with paying only one or two shipping fees.

Online Trading
I haven't made much of a trading presence online. One of my goals (ironically enough) was to try to get rid of some of the excess stuff I've accumulated and try to trade it for stuff I do need. To do that requires money for shipping, so that will be on hold.

Trying to cut back on my hobby isn't really going to be that tough; the hardest part of this trial will be to try to build my wife's confidence back. I've never experienced a job-loss (other than quitting for something else), so I can only imagine what it would do to one's self-esteem. Getting that done will be far more rewarding than finishing off any complete set, team set or finding the rarest of hits.

** My apologies on the size of the scans. I just recently updated my Mac to OS X Yosemite and I've been having problems. I don't know if the scanner thing is a result of it...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

1991 Revisited, Pt. 2

My previous post featured the three main off-season acquisitions brought in by John Schuerholz to strengthen the infield defense. Today's look at the '91 National League Champs will feature the three other guys who made up the infield- each splitting time between the starting lineup and coming in off the bench.

Jeff Treadway
Treadway was always one of those guys you knew would hit well but would also likely be replaced for defensive purposes. Following his playing career, he took what he learned from Bobby Cox as manager and applied it to his new career as a successful coach of both baseball and softball for the Stratford Academy in Macon, Georgia. Prior to that gig, Treadway coached the Macon Braves from 1999-2000

Favorite 1991 Card of Treadway:

This was a tough call. Jeff's Fleer and Upper Deck cards each feature him in a fielding the ball pose and the Donruss card shows him blowing a bubble while at the plate. But it has to be the 1991 Topps card of the second baseman. I mean, you just don't get many of a guy with the donut on his bat.

Jeff Blauser
Another Jeff who also managed in the Braves farm system (AA Mississippi, 2006). And like Treadway, was more known for his bat than his glove. Was a solid offensive player.

Favorite 1991 card of Blauser:

My hatred of this set runs deep- but I really like the photo choice for this one. Eliminate the background, Stan Javier, and the baseball uniform on Blauser, and Jeff would look like he's doing the 'jump up and kick my heels' thing. 

Mark Lemke
It's funny how a player can put up weak numbers during the regular season and then become a Monster during the postseason, but that's Mark Lemke for you. Actually, Lemmer had four really good postseason series at the plate- but I will always remember him as being clutch.

Favorite 1991 card of Lemke:

It's the card that would make any modern analyst shudder. Why give up an automatic out, they say. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You Never Forget Your First

They say that you never forget your first love. I suppose the statement is true- but I'm more likely to never forget the first time I was able to enjoy watching my team play in the World Series. While the 1995 World Series championship was a phenominal thing to experience, there's still a sense that even that team can't replace the affection I have for the 1991 Atlanta Braves.

So with today being the beginning of the 2014 World Series, I say to all the Royal fans out there (especially those who were too young-or not alive- to enjoy the last time their team was in the Series): sit down and enjoy the ride, because you never know when you'll get back. Heck, you may end up being disappointed in the outcome, but remember that you'll always have the excitment that accompany's the Fall Classic.

Going down memory lane, I think I will revist those players from that beloved '91 N.L. Champs team. Today we will start with the most important additions to the club.

Sid Bream
 Brought in during the 1990 off-seasn by new GM John Schuerholz, Bream was one of two corner infield free-agents who figured to help shore up the defense- and with a talented, young pitching staff this was an often-overlooked signing. Sid was included on a few cards as a Brave in 1991, with my favorites being the Topps Traded and the Score Rookie/Traded. 

When I look at the Topps card, I see a determined man; it's like Sid is looking ahead to the glory he knew awaited the team. 

The Score card brings to remembrance that this man may be determined, but he is a broken man. Knee injuries have taken their toll on him; he's not the most nimblest of men.

Terry Pendleton
 'TP,' as the former third baseman is known, was the second of the corner infielders brought in by former Royal GM Schuerholz. While Pendleton had been a good player for St. Louis, no one expecxted that he would win the N.L. MVP. I wish I had put money on it in Vegas. 

 If you've seen one 1991 Pendleton card as a Brave, you've seen them all. And then there's the '91 Studio card. In it, TP looks like he knows something that we don't. It's probably that he'd win the aforementioned award.

Rafael Belliard
 Fundamentals are a forgotten art. And for guys like Belliard, they are a must. They're the only reason why he was employed by a major league team- he may not have had eye-dropping tools, but he mastered the fundamentals of the game and he was able to have a lengthy major league career. This 1991 Upper Deck card show an overachiver, working on his craft.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #15: A Big One from The Big Cat

One of the more 'Feel Good Stories' I can remember taking place in the Braves organization- and all of Major League Baseball- was the return of El Gato Grande (also known as Andres Galarraga) from his 1999 battle with cancer.

2000 S.I. for Kids # 945 (September Issue) Andres Galarraga

Galarraga, who homered forty-four times during his first season in Atlanta, missed the entire '99 season but returned to the field on Opening Day, 2000 as the Braves faced his former team, the Colorado Rockies. Facing Pedro Astacio in the bottom of the 7th, Galarraga blasted a homer off of his former teammate to give the Braves a 1-0 lead (they would win the game 2-0). 

That home run might have brought a tear to your eye, but was not quite as impressive as the tape-measure shot he hit in Miami in 1997. Originally said to be 573-feet, the total was changed to 529 feet. I thought it was closer to the number on the back of his S.I. for Kids card (945).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2014 Topps Update Atlanta Braves

Being the Topps homer that I am, I always view the release of the Update/Traded set as the end of the card collecting calendar year. And while I do look forward to the Heritage High-Series release (I still think Topps has it backwards: release Heritage in packs and then follow it up with Update as a boxed-set), it is somewhat of a bittersweet time of the year as we now have to wait about four months for 2015 Series One to release. *As Auld Lang Syne begins playing in my head*

So let's take a look at the 2014 Update Braves

Base Braves
US-34 Gavin Floyd
US-108 Ryan Doumit
US-111 Emilio Bonifacio
US-159 Tyler Pastornicky
US-195 Gerald Laird
US-199 Julio Teheran AS
US-211 Jordan Schafer
US-214 Tommy La Stella (RC)
US-218 David Carpenter
US-225 Luis Avilan
US-259 Craig Kimbrel AS
US-264 Freddie Freeman AS

The one they (Topps) missed: Shae Simmons
I don't get why the company didn't include the rookie right-handed reliever in the Update set. Simmons made his MLB debut on May 31st and was an important part of the bullpen until an injury ended his season prematurely on July 26th. And it's not like he was an unknown to the company- Topps included the flame thrower in many of its Bowman products.

Who should have been left off the checklist: Gavin Floyd
The free-agent signee saw his season begin late (May 6th) and end early (June 19th). Nine starts, $4 Million and one Topps card later...not to mention the guy's no longer under contract. I don't get it.

You Had One Job to do, Topps: Card # US-159 Tyler Pastornicky
And they blew it. 

You might look at this card and ask what's the big deal? Well, the photo is actually Reed Johnson, who last played for the Braves in 2013. He spent the 2014 season with the Marlins. Way to go, Topps! #ThanksTopps

Putting on my Sherlock:
A search of eBay for Braves cards from the set pulled up this Ryan Doumit card. One thing about the photo immediately stood out: it shows Doumit catching. I didn't recall even seeing Ryan catching this year, so I searched for his 2014 appearances. Sure enough, the former Twin only appeared in two games behind the plate this year: April 5th and April 10th. Of the two games, only the April 5th one was on the road- a night game at Washington, which, judging from the background, is the game this picture was captured. I really don't think this was taken during spring training.

One (JUMBO) Pack:
I gave up on collecting complete sets a few years ago, so there's really no reason for me to break open a box of any given product. Sure, there's the entertainment factor but I can be entertained by watching box breakers on YouTube. And so I've settled on buying a pack or two of a few products each year, more out of tradition than anything. I picked up a hobby jumbo pack Thursday while in the big city on a lunch date with my wife. The three base cards pictured in this post were part of the pull- it's always nice pulling players from your favorite team. And it doesn't hurt when one of the players happen to be one of your favorites (as is Teheran). **Neither the 'Pastornicky' nor the Doumit cards were ones I pulled.

1989 Mini Die-Cuts
TM-CKl Craig Kimbrel
TM-GM Greg Maddux
TM-JH Jason Heyward

Power Players
PP-JU Justin Upton

Fond Farewells
FF-JS John Smoltz

World Series Heroes
WSH-GM Greg Maddux
WSH-HA Hank Aaron
WSH-JS John Smoltz
WSH-TG Tom Glavine

All-Star Stitches
ASR-CKl Craig Kimbrel
ASR-FF Freddie Freeman

All-Star Jumbo Patches
ASJP-CKl Craig Kimbrel
ASJP-FF Freddie Freeman *auto version also available

Own the Name
OTN-FF Freddie Freeman
OTN-JT Julio Teheran

1989 Mini Die-Cut Relics
TMR-GM Greg Maddux
TMR-JH Jason Heyward

Fond Farewell Relic
FFR-JS John Smoltz *auto version also available

World Series Heroes Relics
WSHR-TG Tom Glavine

World Series Heroes Autographed Relics
WSHAR-JS John Smoltz

Strata Signature Relics
SSR-DM Dale Murphy
SSR-FF Freddie Freeman
SSR-JT Julio Teheran

Trajectory Autographs
TA-TL Tommy La Stella

World Series Gold Gems Autographs
WSGG-TG Tom Glavine

World Series Ring Manufactured Relic
WSR-HA Hank Aaron
WSR-TG Tom Glavine

World Series Championship Trophies Relic
WSCT-GM Greg Maddux

World Series MVP Manufactured Patches
WSP-TG Tom Glavine

Friday, October 17, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: I Dubuque You, Steven!

There was quite a transformation that took place in the career of Steve Avery between October of 1990 and October of 1991.

As the third overall pick in the June, 1988 amateur draft, Avery rocketed through the Braves farm system- reaching the majors in less than two years. The kid was barely twenty years old when he made his major league debut on June 13, 1990 and his inexperience showed: he lasted but 2.1 inning in Cincinnati, giving up 8 earned runs on 8 hits and three walks. Bent but not broken, Avery faced the same Reds team six days later at home and pitched much better. And though the entire 1990 season was chocked full of growing pains, it served as a refining process- preparing Steve for the 1991 season in which he would taste both regular season and post season success. His rookie season had left many fans doubting the use of a high draft pick on a high school pitcher; his second campaign vindicated the organization's choice.

1991 Dubuque Braves Steve Avery
Issued at Sunday home games, the 1991 Dubuque Braves cards were sponsored by the stadium's hot dog concessionaire and distributed to children 14 and under. Three to six cards were issued at a time, with print runs at 15,000 (according to the 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards).

The unique thing about this card is that it pictures the young Avery wearing number 42, which he wore only during his rookie season. The only other card I can recall showing him with this number is his 1990 Leaf card. There might be others, but none that I can remember.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The 2014 Stadium Club Braves

It's been months since I've done one of these upcoming/recently-released product team checklists. The reason is quite simple- I got tired of wading through all the various relic, autograph, relic/auto, blah, blah, blahs on the checklists- many of which are so low numbered you or I have no hope of getting them. But with the recent release of Stadium Club baseball, I figured I'd do one for what has always been one of my favorite brands in the hobby.

While the front is what you would expect from Stadium Club, I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed in the back of the cards. It's not that it lacks a great design- because it is a great move from what has become the norm for most Topps products. There's photography, plenty of color, and it even looks like a classic Stadium Club-but while being fresh. The one simple omission is the gloss. A nice glossy front deserves a nice glossy back, and this is where Topps failed. The backs have a dull surface, making the cards seem more like an entry-level product. I don't know what the reason for this exclusion is, but perhaps it comes down to $$$. Despite the dull finish, this is still my *early* choice for set of the year.

Base Braves
23 John Smoltz
44 Hank Aaron
69 Freddie Freeman
70 Justin Upton
115 Jason Heyward
116 Andrelton Simmons
122 Craig Kimbrel
137 Julio Teheran
141 Evan Gattis
178 Greg Maddux

Legends Die-Cuts
#LDC2 Greg Maddux

Field Access
#FA8 Hank Aaron
FA11 Greg Maddux

SCA-EG Evan Gattis
SCA-FM Fred McGriff
SCA-GM Greg Maddux
SCA-JS John Smoltz
SCA-JT Julio Teheran
SCA-MM Mike Minor
SCA-TP Terry Pendleton

These two beauties have found their way onto eBay. Unfortunately, due to the low numbering, I won't be buying either. Nice looking cards, though.

The other two cards I've added to my Teheran and Maddux collections:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanks Columbus

Nothing like the start of a week-long staycation, looking forward to getting some things done around the house and then discovering  remembering upon checking the mail that it's Columbus Day. Or, depending on where you live, 'Indigenous People's Day.' That means no mail and, thus, no cards. Dang. So instead of receiving a shipment or two of expected cards and posting them, I guess I'll just have to show off some other recent (or not-so recent) purchases.

How many of you remember hearing, "Head Down, Eyes on the Ball!" when you were younger and playing ball? Bob had it down.

Dave had a pretty sweet swing, himself; yet another natural hitter.

Preview card from the OPC set- gotta have it. And I got it!

Another retro design. Not nearly as cool as the one above. The players name should have been done in something other than gray.

I don't always pick up current Murphy's. But when I do... they're awesome!

I like the 2003 Bazooka design- but would like to have seen the photos a little bit larger and the pennant/circle smaller.

Two more Juuuulioooo's

Somehow, I don't think Tony and the boys would go for the 'Indigenous People Day' name change.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

When Magic Ruled the Air

"Leaves are falling all around, time I was on my way. Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay. But now it's time for me to go, the autumn moon lights my way. But now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's heading my way. Sometimes I grow so tired,  but I know I've got one thing I've got to do..." ~ Led Zeppelin's 'Ramble On'

We are well into October. The leaves have begun changing their colors (and, in some cases, falling), temperatures have been in the low-mid 70s and last night marked the opening of the league championship series. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite times of year.

Recent years have seen a changing of the guard during October. Gone are the days of the Yankees and Braves perennial deep playoff-runs. Now we're stuck with viewing the Cardinals and Giants in the NLCS and, until this year, it seemed to be Detroit and Boston in the American League. Oh well; as a Braves fan, I'd rather see the current NL regimes than the Dodgers and gNats. Thankfully we have two strangers to the ALCS. And, for your information- I'm pulling for the Royals.

2007 Topps Update World Series Watch Braves

This card is a more recent addition to my Topps team sets. I was completely unaware of it until about a month ago and picked it up on a sportlots purchase. Coming off of an 79-83 season, in which they began September 20 games behind Philadelphia,  Atlanta turned things around during the 2007 season- going 84-78. As they entered the season's final month, the Braves were only 5.5 games back, giving fans the hope of October baseball. It wasn't meant to be, however, as the team finished in third place- 5 games back- and missing the playoffs for the second straight season after fourteen straight division titles.

2014 Stadium Club #23 John Smoltz

I have had absolutely no regrets about giving up on collecting complete sets. Until the past week and a half, that is. Perusing eBay for new Stadium Club singles has, at least for the time being, made me rethink that stance I took. Superb photographs and a quality that was top-notch always defined Stadium Club, making it my favorite release every year. The 2014 set is no different.

Topps use of this photo of Smoltzie makes it a 'must-have' in any Braves collection. The celebration taking place followed the Braves 15-0 ass-whooping of the Cardinals in the 7th game of the 1996 NLCS. It was the most unlikeliest of pennants, as St. Louis had taken a 3-games-to-1 series lead with game 5 at home. Unfortunately for Cards fans, their team ran up against 1996 Cy Young winner John Smoltz and an offense that broke out in a big way that night: 14 runs on 22 hits, while Smoltz and three relievers shutout the home team. I won't speak of Karma coming back to bite the Braves in the backside.

2014 Topps Update World Series Heroes
Topps' upcoming Series 3 release (also known as Update) will feature a 50-card insert set called "World Series Heroes." While I am thrilled to hear of the inclusion of the Big Three, I am somewhat disappointed with the exclusion of David Justice. I mean, the dude hit a huge homer to give the Braves a 1-0 win and Atlanta it's only championship. It is what it is- can't please all the people all the time. But still, I truly believe Justice belongs there before Maddux.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Searchin'

Yeah, I've been searchin', a-searchin'. Oh, yeah, searchin' every which-a-way...yeah, yeah, but I'm like the Northwest Mounties, you know I'll bring her in some day.~ The Coasters smash single, "Searchin'" 

Few things in the hobby are as satisfying as finding what seems to be an elusive card(s). Some call it 'the chase' while others might use a hunting analogy. You could also call it just plain old fashion "searchin'" Call it whatever you like, but no matter how long it takes, don't say that it's hopeless.

The two cards discs featured today have been on my wantlist for some time. And yes, they had been elusive until recently, when I discovered them on Sportlots and picked them up for $1.20 as a pair.

Despite being highly sought after, my detective work didn't give Sherlock Holmes anything to be concerned about when it comes to job security. Not only did I not find them on the popular website until recently, but I also failed to know just how large these suckers are. I figured they measured in at the typical 2-3/4" or 2-3/8" in diameter. Rather, they come in at a robust 3"- making them look more like coasters.

It's quite unfortuante that these things turned out to be such behemoth's because they're just large enough that a normal sized top loader or card saver won't store them. I guess I'll be searchin' once again.