Sunday, January 28, 2018

Thome in The Hall!


When Jim Thome first showed up on the Indians roster, I felt it. I knew that no matter what he did with his career, he would always be one of my all-time favorites. He was likeable. He was a Triber. And, in very short order, he showed he was also a player.

Over his years in Cleveland, I loved watching him on TV when the Indians were on where I could see them. Throughout his career, he remained one of the “good guys.” I don’t mean in playability. He was way more than “good” in that regard. But, he was the guy who came to work and put in the effort when several other players were growing big heads, fighting drug use accusations and causing many fans to turn away from America’s pastime.

When he left Cleveland, many fans turned their anger toward Thome. Sure, he played a part in his $89mil contract with the Phillies, but I was angry with the Cleveland office who had once again turned the Tribe into the farm team to the rest of the league. The Indians continued their notoriety for dumping star players and perpetually existing in a state of “starting over” after having a great season.

From the beginning, I maintained he was one of the most underrated and unappreciated players in the league. He hit 300, 400, 500 homers and it went largely unreported, unnoticed. When he cracked 600, people finally started paying attention and heaping accolades on the “good guy of baseball” that were long, long overdue.

When talk of the Hall started before his retirement, I was convinced that he would probably never make it simply because he was so underrated. Fortunately, he had put is head down and gone to work throughout his career. As it turns out, a lot of folks in the BBWAA knew this work deserved to be recognized and rewarded. Thome entered the Hall with 89.9 percent of the vote, placing him between two other former Tribers: Roberto Alomar and Frank Robinson.

Mighty fine company.

Note: This post was supposed to go out on Thursday after the HOF announcement. I was in Orlando on business and forgot to push publish. D'oh!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Approaching the End of the Topps Monopoly



It's almost here! No, not Christmas, though that is also coming. What I am referring to is the end of the Topps monopoly of MLB-licensed baseball cards. The "exclusive contract" (read, monopoly) with the MLB runs out in 2020, and I, for one, cannot wait.

Way back in 2009, Topps and the MLB signed the paperwork that brought Topps back into the monopoly it held over baseball cards. I say "back into" because before 1980, Topps had a monopoly on producing MLB-licensed cards. That was challenged and we collectors were blessed with some of the worst competitors we have ever seen. The Fleer and Donruss sets were awful, wrought with horrible photos and errors galore. But, we didn't care. We FINALLY had something other than Topps to collect! Sure, there were other brands and off-shoots before that, but they were not "official" and often featured very bad airbrushing to get rid of the team logos. But, starting in 1980, we finally had REAL cards with REAL teams that were NOT Topps.

Competition bred furious innovations: crazy die-cuts, foils, Christmas ornaments, autographs, game-used swatches, bats, etc. It also, admittedly, bred a bizarre spiral into horrid product quality control. Some cards were made of cheap paper, some would fall apart, some had fuzzy, awful photos. Print runs were out of control. Though, the 90's were the heyday of so-called "junk wax" runs in which so many cards were produced at such low quality, they are often sold for less than 1 penny per card.

Then, Topps and the MLB inked a deal to "save card collecting." The deal (in 2009, extended to 2020 in 2013) allowed Topps to once again grab hold of the business and serve as the monopoly of officially licensed baseball cards. For a while, things really sucked. We had horrible products, rehashed versions of old Topps designs, and even the photography looked like a thumbnail image your grandfather enlarged with Paint in order to make it fit onto a card (fuzzy and pixelated crap). Collectors revolted, buying non-licensed cards from Upper Deck, Panini, etc.

Topps got better.

Enter the digital age. Topps developed several card-collecting apps (everything from baseball to Star Wars to soccer, football, and more) - digital versions of baseball cards, acquired through online trading and a VERY lucrative micro-transaction mechanism (where users buy virtual coins and diamonds with real money in order to buy digital cards that do not exist physically - it's genius, really). Topps also came up with "Topps Now" cards, which depict players from the previous day's "hot list of achievements (my own phrase)." These might include Ichiro's 3000th hit or the Indians crazy 20+ game winning streak. Again, Topps has managed to do some things right. Of course, there were the epic failures like 3d baseball cards (which used an app and augmented reality to show a 3d version of the player when you pointed your phone at a card) and whatever that online card collecting site they had was called - sorry, I blocked it out of my memory and don't even want to Google it.

Would those things have developed in the same manner had Topps not inked the deal? Did Topps and the MLB really save baseball card collecting? It's hard to say. How can anyone say for sure, given there was no competition. For all we know, other brands may have popped up that might have developed better apps, better cards, better experiences. Then again, maybe not.

As for the future? I can only hope and pray that 2020 marks the END of the Topps monopoly once and for all. I can only hope that new card companies will rise up and offer worthwhile competitive products. Exclusive contracts are meant to provide one supplier and one manufacturer the opportunity to help spark competition once the contract is over. Please, please, for the love of The Hobby, let's hope that is the fruit of this stranglehold we collectors have been subjected to for all these years.

Here's hoping 2020 provides a clear vision for competition in MLB-Licensed baseball card collecting.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Off-Topic: Short Story to be Published!

I am so excited and honored to have "A Game of Tag" included in this collection coming out SOON!! http://gallencook.com/2017/10/29/hardclay/

The story centers around a boy who is essentially confined to his room a decade after World War III. He watches his friends play a game of tag. Not all is as it seems.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cards From Co-Workers

When you collect baseball cards, word gets around the workplace pretty quickly. Soon, colleagues ask about your collection, how long you've been collecting, what keeps you collecting, etc. And, yes, many give you the sideways glance of a disapproving parent.

Often, at least in my experience, they are quick to come to your for advice about cards they still have or cards their kids are collecting. "How much do you think this is worth?" "What do you think of these?" and other similar questions.

Sometimes, co-workers bring you a stack of cards and say, "I've had these for a long time and I don't collect. Would you like them?" I always take them. Always. It doesn't matter to me if the cards are worth $1 or $100. It doesn't matter if they are players I collect or players of whom I have never heard before. What matters is that this person thought enough of me and my hobby to offer something to help the cause or to find a new home for cardboard bits that were collecting dust. The cards in this post are just that: cards given to me by co-workers. Most of these will find their way into trades/giveaways, off to find a more permanent home.

The "Pudge" card came from my organization's Director. I'll keep that one, mainly because she understands what my hobby means to me and this was a very cool gesture. The other cards came from one co-worker, cleaning out her closets one day. They are all from 1987.

There are some very well-known folks in here: Jim Rice and Tony Gwynn jump off the scan from this first group. Am I the only one that thinks of the song "Come on Eileen" when coming across a Johnny Ray card? "Poor old Johnny Ray..." We also have Otis Nixon, Triber!


 The next scan finishes out the 87 Fleer with players like Oil Can Boyd, Cecil Cooper, Ron Guidry and more. These are the players of my youth - er, okay, I graduated High School in 87...

Next up, we have a stack (most likely a single pack) of 1987 Donruss. Dale Murphy, Tim Wallach, and Jorge Orta (former Triber) stand out for me. Which ones grab your memory?

Finally, we end things with some 1987 Topps. Again, probably from one pack. Roger Clemens, Dave Kingman, and Leon Durham jump out for me, along with several others.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gint-A-Cuffs: Box 02, Packs/Tallies

Welcome to Gint-a-Cuffs 09! Here is my 2nd Hobby Box break with scores. Let's see how we do!

manny machado box loader: +4bl; 
packtotal: +4; GAC total: +4


joey votto - +2ofp
jordan zimmermann - 0
eric legrand - 0
jake arrieta what a day - +2wad
roman quinn - 0
david ortiz - 0
david dahl mini black border - +4mbb
honus wagner - 0
pack total: +8; GAC total +12


rod carew - 0
david price - 0
matt carpenter - +2ofp
sunsphere worlds fair - +2wf
yu darvish mini - 0
 greg maddux - 0
roger clemens - 0
alex gordon - 0
pack total: +4; GAC total: +16

freddie freeman - 0
jackie robinson - 0
jose bautista what a day - +2wad
jose reyes mini ag - +2mag
yangervis solarte - 0
kyle freeland - 0
aaron judge - -1yankees
jason heyward - 0
pack total: +3; GAC total +19

steven matz - 0
battle of princeton rev battles - +2revbatt
robinson cano relic - +7fsr
20,000 leagues under sea req'd reading mini - +2rr
andrew miller - Indians (Wahoo!!) - +1ft
hank aaron - 0
xander bogaerts - 0
pack total: +12; GAC total: +31

adam duvall - 0
tim anderson - 0
luis severino - -1yankees
salmon/flatfish - fishing/lures - +2fish
randy johnson mini - 0
yu darvish - 0
kevin kiermaier - 0
gerrit cole - 0
pack total: +1; GAC total: +32

david wright - 0
max scherzer - 0
alex gonzalez rediscover topps  - +1buyback
dansby swanson what a day - +2wad
carlos carrasco mini ag (Indians - Wahoo!!) - +1ft; +2ag (total: +3)
ty blach - 0
roberto clemente - 0
vashti cunningham - 0
joc pederson - 0
pack total: +5; GAC total: +37

julio teheran - +2ofp
kevin kelley - 0
jason kipnis - Indians (Wahoo!!) - +1ft
yellowfish tuna/trolling lure fish/lure - +2fish
todd frazier mini - 0
khris davis - 0
ozzie smith - 0
stephen strasburg - 0
pack total: +5; GAC total: +42

maikel franco - 0
brooke hogan - 0
andrew mccutchen what a day - +2wad
xander bogaerts mini - 0
lance mccullers - 0
julio urias - 0
chad pinder - 0
george springer - 0
pack total: +2; GAC total: +44

jose altuve - +2ofp
laurie hernandez - 0
mookie betts what a day - +2wad
dave winfield mini - 0
adam eaton - 0
dee gordon - 0
stephen piscotty - 0
chris archer - 0
pack total: +4; GAC total: +48

tyler glasnow - 0
tyler naquin - Indians (Wahoo!!) - +1ft
aaron sanchez - 0
ferris wheel worlds fair - +2wf
hank aaron mini - 0
zach britton - 0
jt realmuto - 0
adrian beltre - +2ofp
pack total: +5; GAC total: +53

elvis andrus - 0
peter rosenberg - 0
ryan christenson rediscover topps - +1buyback
freddie freeman what a day - +2wad
surgeon dude mini - worlds dudes - +2wd
ramiel tapia - 0
ryan braun - 0
jose bautista - 0
jean segura - 0
pack total: +5; GAC total: +58

ben smith - 0
jake thompson - 0
orlando arcia - 0
bunker hill rev battles - +2revbatt
james shields mini - 0
wil myers - 0
tyler austin - -1yanks
micheal fulmer - 0
pack total: +1; GAC total: +59

 babe ruth - -1yanks
ken griffey jr - 0
ollie schniederjans - 0
smallmouth bass/small jig fish/lures = +2fish
jurickson profar mini- 0
aj reed - 0
yaon moncada - 0
dave winfield - 0
pack total: +1; GAC total: +60

nolan ryan - 0
jay glazer - 0
todd frazier - 0
atomium worlds fair - +2wf
kevin gausman ag mini - +2mag
ben zobrist - 0
jorge soler - 0
manny machado - 0
pack total: +4; GAC total: +64

miguel sano - 0
dan jennings - 0
derek jeter what a day - -1yanks; +2wad; total +1
manny machado mini - 0
marcell ozuna - 0
bo jackson - 0
jayson werth - 0
kirby smart - 0
pack total: +1; GAC total: +65

matt olson - 0
jesse winkler - 0
casey candaele rediscover topps - +1buyback
carlos correa what a day - +2wad
dansby swanson mini black border - +4mbb
whitey ford - -1yanks
andrew benintendi - 0
edwin encarnacion - Indians (Wahoo!!) - +1ft
randy johnson - 0
pack total: +7; GAC total: +72

bobby abreu - 0
german marquez - 0
vince velasquez - 0
carlos gonzalez what a day - +2wad
max kepler mini - 0
garrett mcnamara - 0
aroldis chapman - -1yanks
johnny bench - 0
pack total: +1; GAC total: +73

cole hamels - 0
miguel cotto relic - +5fsr
mark trumbo mini ag back - +2mag
jose deleon - 0
marcus semien - 0
greg brid - -1yanks
monorail worlds fair - +2wf
pack total: +8; GAC total: +81

marcus stroman - 0
xray machine worlds fair - +2wf
shintaro fujinami relic - +5fsr
albert pujols - 0
hanley ramirez mini - 0
yasmany tomas - 0
mike moustakas - 0
pack total: +7; GAC total: +88

robinson cano - 0
william shatner - +1ws
dustin pedroia - 0
gary sanchez mini black border - -1yanks; +2mbb; total: +1
sailfish/plugs fish/lures - +2fish
josh bell - 0
tanner roark - 0
james shields - 0
pack total: +4; GAC total: +92

allan anderson rediscover topps - +1buyback
stephen a smith - -1sas
adrian gonzalez - 0
adam jones what a day - +2wad
steel worker dude worlds dudes mini - +2wd
bartolo colon - 0
jake arrieta - 0
giancarlo stanton - +2ofp
alexa datt - 0
pack total: +6; GAC total: +98

jameson taillon - 0
jurickson profar - 0
ender inciarte - 0
tarpon/twitchbait fishing/lures - +2fish
harry kellar magicians/illusionists mini - +2magic
jose abreu - +2ofp
kevin gausman - 0
rickey henderson - 0
pack total: +6; GAC total: +104

allie laforce - 0
yoenis cespedes - 0
xander bogaerts what a day - +2wad
willie stargell ag back mini sp - +2mag; +3msp; total: +5
willie mccovey - 0
jayson stark - 0
francisco lindor - Indians (Wahoo!!) - +1ft; +4myfp; total: +5
brian dozier - 0
pack total: +9; GAC total +116

trees in india - 0
jon lester - 0
pedro martinez - 0
buster posey what a day - +2wad; +2ofp; total +4
julio teheran mini ag back - +2mag; +2ofp; total: +4
david dahl - 0
mookie betts - 0
derek jeter - -1yanks
pack total: +7; GAC total: +123


Well, we ended up with a total of +123 if my math and calculations are correct. That is just 2.8 points short of my first box. haha! The difference? More Yankees in this box equals more penalties!