Monday, October 31, 2011

Crying FOUL!

Announced today, the Indians have decided NOT to exercise Grady Sizemore's option, while choosing to keep Fausto Carmona.  What seems to be the bane of Tribe fans who are voicing their opinion overwhelming supports the Sizemore decision.  What many fans are crying FOUL over is the decision to keep Carmona.  Why bother keep Carmona?

Well, with his 7-15 record and abysmal 5.15 ERA, that is the multimillion dollar question.  My take on this?  They kept him, hoping for a just-above-par performance next season in order to facilitate a trade.  Basically, I think the Indians are hoping he can improve enough before the 2012 trade deadline and work out a deal with some sucker.  Of course, once Carmona does get traded off, he will become the darling of the MLB, as how things seem to turn out for many of the Indians players lately.

Okay, maybe "darling" is stretching it a bit.

What of Sizemore?  I think he should retire from the MLB.  Seriously. Take the injuries and head off to a career as a semi-pro player using his "what I used to be" history and help some club boost their numbers. 

Of course, I may be in the minority here, but I see Hafner doing the same thing.  The Indians cannot simply go one coddling players that used to be killer and who are now just injury-prone has-beens.

What of Thome?  Well, evidently he has filed for free agency (along with several other Tribers).  While I would love for Thome to get a World Series ring, I think his incredible (though mostly ignored) career should go out on top with this 600+ home runs.

Getting back to the original topic: What do you think?  Was keeping Carmona and ditching Sizemore the right thing to do?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Study uses race to sell baseball cards

Thanks to a heads-up from Cardboard Connection, I was turned on to a study done which looked at racial affects of sales on eBay.  The authors of the study chose to sell baseball cards.  In each auction, a single hand was shown holding the card.  The study then evaluated the original purchase price versus what the card sold for in the study's auction based on the race of the card holder's hand: that is - do African-American sellers get lower bids than White sellers, based on only the skin color of the seller?

In the study, the authors do a fairly good job of eliminating most of the variables related to eBay auctions: sellers have non-identifying IDs, paypal accounts, etc; different sellers offer up a variety of player cards; no interaction between sellers and potential buyers was conducted during the auctions, etc.

The authors prided themselves on NOT selling the same cards among the participants.  That is, no two sellers sold the same card.  I see this as a serious design flaw in the study.  Why?  Because in card collecting, WHO is pictured represents a very significant piece of the puzzle.  Even if superstars are spread among the sellers (which they were, as well as memorabilia/auto cards), one must still take into account the actual player(s) being depicted.  Granted, the authors were not trying to see if the cards sold for more or equal value to what they were originally purchased (though that is a part of the data).  They wanted to see the overall difference: did white sellers have higher sales than non-whites.  To me, they were not comparing items on a level playing field.  This was akin to comparing sales of Granny Smith apples to Red Delicious.  I do understand that they did not want to appear to be flooding the market with any particular card, but to me anyway, the study should be re-done using cards of the same players, and preferably of the same cards (or at least have some control cards involved: each seller has, say, 8-10 of the exact same card as the other sellers for sale).  For clarity here: I do not mean each seller has 8-10 Rollie Fingers autograph cards.  I mean each seller has a Rollie Fingers auto card, each one has a game-used McGwire card, etc and preferably it is the SAME card.  So, potential buyers would see FOUR Fingers cards, FOUR McGwire cards, etc - the ONLY difference being the hand which holds the card.

The second flaw in the design: Players/teams being offered.  The study was done around May 2006 (judging by the posted photos of completed auctions).  April/May is actually not a bad time of year to do such a study: Baseball season is gearing up/just starting and potential collectors tend to buy more/bid higher.  I admit, though, that the players generally being offered are of a caliber that they should garner decent sales results regardless of the time of year.  However, collectors are a finicky lot.  Some player cards will warrant higher selling prices for all kinds of reasons: does the collector mainly collect Hank Aaron, does the collector mainly collect Astros, how common is the card being offered up, etc?  I think they did a nice job of mixing graded and non-graded, spreading out the production years, etc, but still: WHO is on the card?  As mentioned above, a more consistent offering of the players depicted would have evened the playing field. 

The study reports on the race(s) of the player(s) shown on the card.  As a collector, I say they wasted a lot of time on that one.  Generally, collectors do not collect based on the player's race (though, admittedly, I am sure there are collectors who do that very thing) - they collect based on WHO is shown on the card (whether that be a specific player, team, etc).  While the data showing seller race compared to depicted card race(s) was a fun aside, that is all it was: a distracting aside that bears no meaning on the true focus of the study.

Perhaps a "better" control study would have been to offer one copy of each card without any hands being depicted at all.  Would the lack of any kind of identifying race have changed the outcome of the study?  Something to think about.

Of course, the number one issue at hand has nothing to with race.  The number one issue is the use of baseball cards as the study's vehicle.  Baseball card prices are some of the most liquid figures in the known world.  Even when offered for a week at a time, any given card might garner higher sales or lower sales based on absolutely nothing whatsoever.  In fact, perhaps a follow-up study should be done with the same cards in order to see if the data returns the same.  Naturally, that wouldn't really be conclusive either based on the third sentence in this very paragraph: card prices are liquid.

Here's another thought: What if this study were done with, say, football cards instead?  Or how about hockey cards?  Would we see the same results?  Would it matter, given the flaws inherent in such an experiment?  What if the experiment were done with jewelry, videogames, or Fruit Loops?

I appreciate what the authors were trying to achieve: a determination of whether race plays a significant role in eBay auctions.  But, one set of sales based one type of product is hardly conclusive.  They even say so themselves, though not in so many words.

The entire study can be found here:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coming up empty


A while ago, I signed up for a case break over at A Cardboard Problem.  Well, the break finally took place once the cards were released from Topps and ACP got hold of the cards.  After the break, I received an email from Marie.  She let me know that the Indians raked in exactly ZERO cards from the entire break!  Say what!?  ZERO Indians cards in the entire box or case or whatever it was!?  No way!  Way.  Nothin'.  Because Marie is such a great person, however, she made an offer I couldn't refuse and so I will be trying again for the next break.
I can't help but wonder how it is that in all of the Topps collation systems, there are ZERO Indians cards in the box.  In the whole box!?  Really, Topps?  Oh wait, I know.. This was an "error box" right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I sought, I bought, I'm OK With It

I ran into Wal-Mart the other day to pick up a few things (which I don't even recall right now), and stopped to look through the cards.

I saw Topps Lineage "bonus" packs hanging there in front of me.  My first thought: "Since when does 'BONUS' mean a total of 14 cards!?"  Me next thought: "Okay, I'll bite."

I picked a couple packs off the hanger and noticed something... If you press the wrapper against the cards, you can make out at least one card on the front and one on the back.  I sought.

Yeah, that's right, I became a pack searcher.  Though, probably not for what most searchers would be seeking. Was I looking for some telltale sign of autographs or swatches?  Nope.  I was looking for Indians logos.  And, sure enough, one of the packs featured a ghostly Chief Wahoo peeking through the white wrapper.  I bought.

Yeah, that's right, I bought it.  I didn't even stop to look for other Indians-filled packs, either. I found one and ran for the hills... er, checkout.  (Digression: For those that immediately thought of another discount department store when you saw the word "hills," I applaud you.  Does Hills even exist anymore? Man, we used to go there all the time when I lived in the 'Burgh.  Okay, digression over.)

The card I saw on the back, by the way, was some guy named "Cobb."  Ever heard of him? Yeah, I thought you might have.  In any case, packs with memorabilia have 12 cards in them instead of 14.  My pack had 14. So, you know I did not come up with the chicken dinner. (Digression: "winner, winner! Chicken dinner!"  Though I've never understood just why the winner was getting a chicken dinner.  Granted, not too many other dinners would scan in the rhyme... Digression over.)

So, what *DID* I pull?  Let's take a look:

Lou Gehrig, Mike Schmidt, and Lance Berkman.  Wow! Not a bad way to start a pack of cards.  Speaking of cards, I absolutely love the design of these.  They remind me of some older set that I cannot quite place and yet feel totally modern.  Excellent work, Topps.

Next up: Ryan Braun, Paul O'Neill, and Vernon Wells.  The Braun card is written in Spanish on the back (#TV20).  I have not done any checking to see just what that's all about.  I opted to show the back of the Wells card, so you could see what it looks like in case you hadn't seen one of these yet.  Again, I love the design - brightly colored, big spot for name/info, and a neat paragraph to go with it.

The last card in the first half is Michael Pineda.  Sorry, but I have no idea who he is. Carlos Santana was the top card in the bottom of the blister pack, and it was his helmet that I could make out the logo.  He was the reason I bought the pack. Not too shabby!  Adam Wainwright followed.

Then, we have Roy Oswalt, Gordon Beckham, and Shin-Soo Choo.  Am I the only one that thinks Oswalt looks weird in anything but an Astros uniform?  Probably. How awesome that this bonus pack had TWO Indians players in it!? Wahoo!!

The last two cards (since my pack was not a dinner-procuring pack) were Chipper Jones and Ty Cobb.  Not a bad way to end the pack at all!  Great start and a nice finish with two Tribers sandwiched in between!

Overall, as I said, I love the design of these Lineage cards.  The photos tend to be a tad saturated, but I can't help wonder if that is intentional.  If not, it works anyway.  If it was intentional, then it works as intended.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cards from the Biggs house

I opened my mailbox the other day to discover a nice sized bubbleope waiting inside it!  I was excited to see "Biggs" on the return address because I was not expecting anything from Kerry and because I never know just what goodies will be inside.  Turns out, there were plenty of "Tribe-al" goodies in there!

I am breaking these up into 9-card (er, roughly) sections because that's about how many cards fit on my scanner. 

CC Sabathia - 2007 Fleer Ultra - By the time this card was made, Sabathia had already been with the Indians for six seasons.  He was, as the card says, one of the Indians leading workhorses.
David Justice - 1999 Fleer Tradition - Justice was one of the Indians all-time greats.  Oh sure, the "other" Native American team likes to lay claim to him, but either way, a Justice on the field for your team meant you had a superstar.
Grady Sizemore - 2011 Bowman - The photo is so familiar, I am almost certain I have this card, but then the fact that it is 2011 Bowman leads me to think i do not have it yet. Well, I have it now, no matter which way we go, right? The big question on Tribe fans' minds right now regarding Sizemore: Is it time to let him go?  As much as I hate to say it, I think the answer is "passed the time." (Side note: is it 'past' or 'passed' here? I played with both, and neither looks right. I suppose I should have just chosen a different phrase and been done with it. Instead, you have now been subjected to one of my many digressions.)
Rick Dempsey - 1987 O-Pee-Chee Traded - Yeah, that's right!  Many people don't know or remember that the great Rick Dempsey once donned an Indians uniform.  It was just for one season. He played in 60 games for the Tribe.  His 1987 Topps Traded card shows him in an Indians hat, though the image makes one wonder if that was an airbrush job. Hmm...
Travis Hafner - 2007 Upper Deck Holiday Inn - Back when Upper Deck was still legally allowed to make MLB cards, they teamed up with Holiday Inn for a 60-card set. Hafner made the cut.  Like Sizemore for 2011, Indians fans have to wonder just how long the Tribe will keep Pronk. Really, Pronk should be wondering how long ANY team would keep him.
Manny Ramirez - 1999 UD Choice Preview - When Manny was just starting to become "Manny," he was at the end of his Indians run.  In fact, he would play just one more season in a Tribe uni after this card was made.  Some fans would love to have Manny come back to Cleveland. I say only if he returned to his humble beginnings - in multiple ways.
Ronnie Belliard - 2005 Topps Pack Wars - Belliard, who ironically looks a lot like Manny on this card, would finish out the '05 season batting .284 which is too good for the Cleveland front office, so when he started doing even better in '06, the Indians let him go to St. Louis.
Tris Speaker - 1993 Action Packed - Man, do I love the Action Packed cards!  They have great photos embossed on the card with a 3-d feel using the old "blur the background" technique used for ages.  This is one of my all-time favorite sets!  Tris Speaker was one of the all-time great ball players, let alone Triber.  He played in the majors for 22 years.  Yes, TWENTY-TWO years!  He had 10,208 at-bats.  Could you imagine getting up to the plate more than 10,000 times!? Wow!
Sam McDowell - 1992 Action Packed - Yeah, buddy! Two A/P cards in here! Sam played baseball for 15 years, including the amazing 325 strikeouts in 1965 for the Tribe.  He sits 2nd, behind legendary Bob Feller, in the all-time Indians strikeout kings (2159). Boo-yeah!

Sandy Alomar - 1999 Bowman International - This is a very cool card of Alomar Jr.  It's shiny, which is always a plus to those of us easily distracted by such things (which I am). But, it also has an image from Puerto Rico behind him and the card back is written almost entirely in Spanish.
Pat Osborn - 2005 Bowman Chrome - I don't recall much about Osborn, and after reading his info on, I guess I see why.  He was going to be one of the next big things through the Tribe minor system, but that never fully flushed out.
Hector Rondon - 2008 Bowman Gold - Rondon has spent his career in the Indians minor system. This past season, he pitched 3 innings. He had a 3.00 ERA.
Carlos Baerga - 1994 O-Pee-Chee All-Stars - What a weird card. The huge white border gives the illusion that this is a mini card.  The back of the card has an offer for a jumbo-sized set of the All-Star cards.
Kenny Lofton - 1998 Skybox Dugout Xpress Double Header - Roll the dice and play some ball! I would love to have a set of these and get a game going.  I love that rolling a snake eyes gets him hit by the pitch. Was he hit so often that he really needed a die roll on his card? Ouch.
Charles Nagy - 1994 Topps Stadium Club Gold - Okay, Gold is not the right word, but it has the special badging on it.  This was not the "regular issue" Stadium Club, nor was it the "Members Only" version. In any case, nice card!
Paul Sorrento - 1995 Topps - Ah, back in '95, the WWW was still young and anything and everything had the word "Cyber" attached to it. For Topps, that meant "Cyberstats."  Not sure how Cyberstats were different than real-life ones, but hey, who are we to say? After all, they had competition to deal with.
Grady Sizemore - 2008 Topps Stars - "Destined to be one of the greats of the decade" proclaims the back of the card.  And what amazes me is that Sizemore rocks the house when he plays. He really does. I have been a Sizemore fan for many, many years.  The problem is that he spends way too much time being hurt.  In fact, I will say it now: in the future when a player spends a much time hurt as Grady does, people will refer to it as "Being Sizemore."
Shin-Soo Choo - 2010 Topps Attax - Try as Topps (and other card makers) might, no one has really come up with a card game that collectors want to play since ASBA way back in the day.  Give it up, man. Just let it go. 
Tris Speaker - 2010 Topps Vintage Legends - Okay, this card gives me seriously mixed emotions.  We have one of the greated players featured on a card from the era when my collection truly took off.  In fact, seeing Speaker on a "hat kind" card (as my brother and I called the series), is really just kinda freaky.  Even his photo suggests that he is trying desparately to escape the card.
Carlos Santana - 2011 ToppsTown - Is it cool or a pain to be named the same as one of the all-time great guitarists to ever live?  I'd have to think it would be cool.  Does Santana collect anything related to his like-named counterpart? People want to know this stuff.
Dennis Martinez - 1995 UD SP - I have a hard time calling him "Dennis."  He was always "Denny" when growing up. In any case, a great Triber! On the back, he is signing an autograph.  If I were ever to be featured on a ballcard, I'd like the back to show me signing autographs. I think that says a lot about sportsmanship and giving back to the fans in some small way.
Travis Hafner - 2007 UD Triple Play - The back features a scratch-off area. Back in 2007, I could enter the code and win something.  Now, I can't even access that site. How times have changed.
Asdrubal Cabrera - 2008 Topps - For the longest time, arguably the hardest name for announcers to pronounce in the league. I never quite understood that.  And, yes, my analyses and musings are running out.  i have a long way to go yet.
Rich Thompson, Bryan Clark, Benny Ayala, and Vern Ruhle - 1985 Topps Traded Tiffany - These are not just the Traded version, but the shiny and BRIGHT "Tiffany" flavors to boot! Sweet!

Dave Von Ohlen - 1985 Topps Tiffany Traded - His face seems to reflect the following thought, "Really? I'm in Cleveland? It might as well be Milwaukee." When this photo was snapped, Dave had already been through nine years of minors plus a come-and-go stint with the Cardinals.  He would only spend a couple more years in the majors.. with Oakland.
Paul Sorrento - 1994 Select - I always liked these cards. The name splitting the card between two different images, done in two different styles, gives the card an artistic feel.  The fact that the card features a third, and different, photo on the back adds to the charm.  Not many companies were bold enough to put multiple pictures on card, let alone THREE of them. Nice stuff!
Denny Martinez - 1995 Pinnacle - As soon as I write the above, this card features three different images. Figures. Of course, the Select brand was produced by Pinnacle, so there's really no surpise there.  Pinnacle did for images what Pacific did for die-cuts - they went crazy.
Manny Ramirez - 1995 Pinnacle Swing Men - The background is a weird swirling image of.. I dunno, something or someone.  The back of the card has a cool multi-bat border that must have taken someone at the company months to design. I would guess many collectors hated the thing. I'm quirky. I like it.
Carlos Baerga (and Bret Boone) - 1995 Topps "1994 Topps All-Stars" - Remember when Topps had their own "All-Stars?" I mean BEFORE these?  Yeah, that is going way back, I know. Well, they fired these up again and this card features Second Basemen.  Stats on the back show their record before the break and then after the break.  Both players did MUCH better after the break, though they were kickin' it pretty well before it, too.
Dennis Martinez - 1996 Score - "Hey, we don't want you actuallu DOING anything, okay? Just pretend you are watching something over to the left. Thanks."
Chad Ogea - 1996 Stadium Club - Love the borderless Stadium Club cards.  Ogea spent most of his career with the Tribe.  His last season, in 1999, took him to Philly.  In 2009, Carl Dubois caught up with Ogea at an LSU gathering:
Carlos Baerga - 1996 Stadium Club "Team TSC" - Topps created their own stat, the "TSC Rating" and Baerga was third on the list for the 1995 season.  As explained on the card, "The TSC rating... it determined by: AB/(RBI+RUNS-HR), based on a minimum of 400 at-bats."  Why? I dunno.
Grady Sizemore - 2009 UD Series 2 - What a weird photo.  Here, Sizemore demonstrates a slide.  Notice anything?  How about no moving dirt?  None. Not at his hand, not at his feet, not even under his "sliding" body.  In the background, a befitting ad for Circle-K... "Strange things are afoot at the Circle K" for sure.
Omar Vizquel - 2002 Donruss Super Estrellas - These were Spanish-only cards distributed throughout the US (and I assume Latin American countries).  So far as I can tell, it was an attempt to lure Latinos into the baseball card hobby.  In my experience, it gave non-Spanish speaking collectors another cool set to chase.  I'll take it!

Michael Brantley - 2010 UD Series 1 - I love these cards. Upper Deck said, "Yeah we know we're not allowed to make them, but we're going to anyway. Oh, don't you see the 'NOT authorized by the MLB on the back?' Yeah, we're okay." In the meantime, the Brantly photo is cool. He appears to be watching a long fly ball. 
Luis Valbuena - 2010 UD Series 1 - This shot was taken in-game.  The fans in the background are watching the ball take off.  I assume this was at a Cubbies game, given the logos blurred out and the colors of the shirts in the stands.  Then again, I never was good at placing a game in a particular place.
Asdrubal Cabrera - 2010 UD Series 1 - Not sure why a company would feature a 2nd baseman missing a steal.  That's not very flattering.
Carlos Santana - 2011 Bowman - The girls at Dinged Corners would love this one - he's wearing his catcher's gear. Now, if he were only smiling...
Jeremy Sowers - 2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom - A lot of collectors seem to hate these 'ticket cards.' for one reason or another.  I always liked them, though not this style as much as the ones that actually look like tickets.  Maybe it is the tiny photo stuck in th emiddle of the card. I could see that being an issue. Yikes.
Asdrubal Cabrera - 2009 UD Series 2
Grady Sizemore - 2009 UD Icons - Love the design of these cards! Very cool, flowing, energetic.
Cliff Lee - 2009 UD X - I admit, I like the die-cut version of the X cards better than the 'regular' version. I wish UD had made the die cuts as the standard fare and just left these out. But, seeing as how I have Lee on one of these, I'll take it!
Ryan Garko - 2008 Topps Opening Day - Garko spent most of his career with the Indians and also garnered his best AVG with his years as a Triber.  I enjoyed watching him play with the Tribe.  The Opening Day cards bring a stark, bright contrast to the standard version of Topps that year, and it doesn't hurt that Topps used red.

Josh Barfield - 2008 UD Series 2 - Barfield was "supposed" to be the everday go-to 2nd baseman for the Tribe.  He started out well, but things started fallingoff for him about the time Asdrubal Cabrera came in to the picture, and well, the rest was history.
Chuck Lofgren - 2007 Bowman - Wow. It is amazing how many players I do not recognize. He is one of them. I guess that means I need to spend some more time getting to know some of the draft picks. Then again... Lofgren spent 5 seasons in the Cleveland minor system before getting moved to the Brewers system and then to the Giants.  He actually seemed to be poised to come out slinging (he's a pitcher). Then, something fizzled or never quite materialized and he faded from the Tribe minor clubhouses.
Grady Sizemore - 2007 Fleer Ultra - Nice full-card shot of the phenom that is and isn't.
David Delucci - 2007 UD Series 1 - No airbrushing here; just change the team along the side of the card and call it good. Delucci played for the Indians for roughly 2 1/2 seasons, but seems to be widely associated with the Tribe when searching for pics, info, etc.  Not sure why that would be, given that his .238 AVG was one of the worst of his career with any one team. 
Victor Martinez - 2007 UD Series 1 - V-Mart was one of the best catchers the Indians had.  And, like many of the Tribers goneby, he was traded away at his peak Indians performance.  Am I bitter?  Yeap. Am I surprised? Nope.  Martinez is just one of a long list of Indians players to get the boot just when the Indians need them the most.
Jeremy Sowers - 2006 Fleer Tradition - Spring Training poses. Folks either love 'em or hate 'em.  If I had to guess, I'd say the player behind him is also posing for a card photo.  Sowers was another phenom gone wrong.  The Indians tried to keep him going, to keep him in the game.  But, after his first year, his ERA just couldn't come out of the sky.  He was put on the DL in 2010, and I don't know if he's been heard from since. Guess I should follow up on these things, eh?
Roberto Alomar - 2002 MLB Showdown - Roberto Alomar, now a HOFer, came into the MLB and made his mark with every team he touched.  The Indians were lucky to have him for the time he spent in Cleveland.  His overall AVG as a Triber? How about .323!? Yeah, that's what I was thinking. He had an OBP of .405 to go with that. This guy was on the base basically every 2 1/2 times at bat. Holy smokes.  The card itself is very cool - SHINY!
Terry Mulholland - 2003 Topps Gold - I love gold cards, especially the serially numbered ones.  Topps does some cool things with their numbers, and in 2003, the golds were numbered out of 2,003. See how fun that is? Of course, by today's standards, that is a high overrun.  I find that ludicrous.  There are only 2,003 of these.  How many Indians and/or general baseball card collectors are out there?  A heckuvalot more than 2,003... Oh well.  Did you know he played for 11 different MLB teams!? Dang, this dude got around. He played with the Indians for two years and ended up 6-6 with an ERA of 4.81, which is just a touch higher than his carrer ERA of 4.41.  The 9.00 when he was with the Diamondbacks really skews his ERA overall.  But, you take the good and take the bad.
CC Sabathia (and Dontrelle Willis) - 2008 UD A Piece of History Cut From the Same Cloth - I'm not sure I understand what UD was trying to do with this one.  Basically, they were cut from the same cloth because they are both left-handers (which UD still refers to as "Southpaws" on the card. Now *THAT* I applaud. I'm glad not everything is always so politically correct!).  The other thing that bothers me about the card? There is no cloth. Seriously, put a piece (or pieces) of fabric in there.  no?  Also, Willis is shown in a Marlins uni though there are Tigers logos all over the thing.  naturally, I don't actually care about that.  I love the fact that it is an Indians card featuring the same "Workhorse" that started off this awesome selection of Tribers!

THANK YOU VERY MUCH, Mr. Biggs!!  This was a very cool, unexpected surprise!