Mas Nachos!

Wednesday morning I posted some cards that I got in a group break that Chris hosted. Well, in doing my digging through the ol' backlog, I discovered that I had a folder of scans from another break that he hosted last June, which I never got around to posting! Oh, the humanity!

This break involved a pair of boxes of 2017 Archives, one of 2017 Bunt, and one of 2017 Diamond Kings. Given that I was trying to spend less overall last year, this looked like an excellent break to round out some of the 2017 Astros needs.

First up, the Diamond Kings. I landed a few cards here, and I think they did a fantastic job with this set. The Musgrove is the rookie layout, while the Biggio is the design for current and retired players.

The highlight of the Diamond Kings, though, was this Altuve. Not only is it well done, but also it's a short print variation! Excellent work on the part of Panini to find a photo that hides the lack of logos for the most part.

On to the Archives! I think I racked up all the base cards necessary out of these two boxes. Thanks Chris! Topps did an excellent job with the '92 design, and I'm particularly happy with the horizontal photos they chose. I love a good horizontal card.

I mean, just look at that! That's a killer Altuve card.

There were some great inserts in Archives as well. These Bazooka-style rookies of Gurriel and Bregman were awesome pulls. This design is fantastic, by the way - it's a callback to the 1959 Bazooka design.

Of course, as we know Topps loves to reuse both photos and designs, so not only do we get yet another rehash of the 1960 rookie design, but also we see Bregman's photo reused on an insert in the same set. And of course, there have to be autographs and parallels, so you know - on and on. Still, this is a great looking card. I could nitpick the design (Needless RC badge, Topps Magazine differing fonts - and do we really need to try and replace Sporting News in these redos?), but overall it looks pretty swell.

And then, there was Bunt. This is a sharp looking simple set, and affordable. I can dig that. I wasn't going to go out and buy a bunch of it - if I recall, it barely showed up in my local Target - but I'm very much okay with how Topps has spun a physical set out of the app. My favorite base card was the Yuli Gurriel rookie I pulled. Crazy to think that he was technically a rookie at 33, but that contract is looking like a pretty good one. Had it not been for some dude named Aaron Judge, Gurriel would have had a really good shot at AL ROY.

When it came to the Bunt cards, I was struck by the sheer volume of parallels that were added to the set last year. Of course there are base set parallels - and I landed a few from the box, including a nicely numbered green parallel of Dallas Keuchel, #66/99. But there were parallels of the inserts, too - and not just one, like five. I thought this was a set for kids? Topps, what are you doing?

The simple inserts in bunt are a little hit and miss. The Infinite cards were really nice. The Programs, with their faux wear and tear, were a bit silly. Just give me a nicely designed program, I don't need to see your goofy photoshop stuff trying to make this look like a beat up magazine.

Of course Chris, being the awesome collector and break host he is, threw in plenty of extra Astros to round out the package. There were some nice cards from 2000 Skybox Dominion, an elegantly simple and underrated set that I've enjoyed since I was first buying packs of it 18 years ago. These Killer B's were the big additions, including a nice shot of Skinny Lance, before his Fat Elvis days.

There were some other nice finds from the mid-late 90s - a Virtual Reality parallel of Luis Gonzalez from 1995 Stadium Club and a Tony Peña from 1998 Collector's Choice. Why is the second so notable, you ask? Well, for a good while I didn't think Peña had an Astros card, and that I was going to have to make up a custom to get signed for the Astrographs collection. When I saw this one in the package, it gave me a small surge of excitement that you otherwise wouldn't expect.

There were some late-aughts/early-tens (teens? what do you call that decade?) needs to be found, including this '08 Topps Own the Game insert of Lance Berkman and a fiery Michael Bourn from 2011 Topps Attax. I think there were several Attax cards in here, if memory serves.

This was quite unexpected - a 2012 Bowman rookie card of staff ace and recent AL Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel? I'd figured that would be a card I might have to pony up a few bucks for at a card show at some point. It was very nice to scratch that off the want list.

Finally, some 1994 Bowman's Best to finish it off. These are very cool, and Chris managed to hit several of my needs. Check it out - Wagner doesn't even have a name on his jersey here - that's got to be a GCL Astros photo. The Hunter would have been from Spring Training, fresh off the new uniform change.

Thanks again Chris!


A Stros-centric Trade

I pulled off another sweet little trade over at TCDB this week. This comes from new trading pal Ryan, aka Guicentric. Of course, the trade itself was 'Stros-centric for me. I sent him a package of some 2017 cards he needed, and landed some recent Astros in return.

There was shiny stuff from Panini and Topps. The Diamond Kings subset really suffers from the lack of license, which means unless its an Astros, I pretty much just put them up for grabs now. I got a sweet Bregman Chrome with that rookie cup, though.

Some paper cards made their way in the package as well - a few from 2017 Fire and Update, including a very sharp looking Yuli Gurriel (interestingly, they've put his full first name here - I'll have to examine that in a future post). I love me some Frankie Tuesday, and he looks pumped here. The big man was one of the recent odd men out in the late Spring Training roster cuts, but not for lack of stuff. The Astros want to try and continue developing him as a starter, so he'll begin the year at AAA Fresno.

There was also a trio of excellent cards from one of last year's best sets, Stadium Club. I've been waiting for some awesome person to send me this badass Billy Wagner card for some time - I love everything about it. The Beltran is superb as well - I hadn't seen it yet, and I'm really pleased. Interestingly enough, that's a Spring Training photo, and Topps didn't bother to photoshop out the FL highway-sign patch* on his right shoulder.

*These are dumb as hell, please get rid of these MLB.

Thanks for the awesome swap Ryan! Here's to many more in the future.

 - Marc


Trader's Backlog: Cards from Cards on Cards!

While I'm still at work on that cardboard housekeeping, I had to do some significant real housework this past week. It was Spring Break, which meant that my beloved wife, a teacher, had the week off. My current job is flexible, so I stayed home Wednesday to hang with the family and work from my home office. We were heading out the door in the morning to head over to the local coffee shop for some 'spro and doughnuts - the new one in which Hunter Pence is a part-owner - when we looked at our front yard. The flowerbed by the porch was a lake, with a river running down the side of the driveway to the street.

To make the story of a very long day short, the main line from our meter had split thanks to an overgrown pecan tree root that had been putting pressure on it for who knows how long, and we had to repair it.

No body here, I promise.
The gory details: the meter evaded our detection for over an hour - the grass had grown over it and it wasn't anywhere close to where it was marked on our plat. The plumbers couldn't find it, and wanted to send me an estimate to replace the whole line (that turned out to be four grand, they thought it was galvanized pipe and there would have been concrete work involved). I'd called the city to help me find the meter - that guy showed up not 15 minutes after I finally found it. After the plumbers had gone, my wife's father, a mechanic and DIY champion, told us he'd be here within the hour, and we'd find the leak and make a trip to the hardware store. $100 bucks in supplies (shovel, concrete boots for the muck, $5 part, $75 "disposable" chainsaw that we ruined) and a couple hours of elbow grease later, and all was fixed. The pecan root was a good 6" thick, and we cut out about two feet of it. It was larger than my calf. I left the pipe exposed overnight to make sure the repair held and let the ground dry up a bit, and spent some time this weekend filling in the 4' x 2' x 3' hole we dug, then putting in some fresh sod over the spot in my yard where it looked like I'd just buried a body.

The culprit. Again, bigger than my lower leg. I wear a size 10 1/2 shoe, for reference.

TL;DR: Homeownership can be a real pain in the back.

But back to the cardboard housekeeping! Here's a delightful little folder from a package that Kerry of Cards on Cards sent my way last June. I'm sure there were more great cards, but let's look at what I threw on the ol' scanner, shall we?

Frankie Tuesday! Bowman must have been pretty new at the time, so these would have been particularly welcome at RTA. I felt like the 2017 Bowman design was quite well done, although the graphics around the team logo could be a bit much. Daz may have been shipped off in the Verlander trade, but this yellow parallel isn't getting shipped anywhere.

More Frankie Tuesday! Plus, this Talent Pipeline insert has our top prospect Kyle Tucker and World Series hero Derek Fisher on it! This card is loaded, y'all.

Kerry also sent over two shiny Bowman cards of some big-time studs from the current team. Check out baby Lance in his 2010 Team USA duds! Bregman is turning out to be a damn fine defender over at third base.

Last but not least in my scans, we close the package out with a Hunter Pence rookie card from 2007 Topps Update. But wait, this ain't no ordinary base card. No sir, that's one of those "red back" variations.

Thanks again for the package Kerry! I'll be more prompt next time. Gotta find some of those Cards cards to send your way.

 - Marc

Nachos Grande Por Favor!

As you well know, there's plenty to post around here, and I'm trying to head things off at the pass before the backlog gets even bigger. Your friend and mine, Chris of Nachos Grande held another fantastic Group Break this month, compiling several older boxes of sweet cardboard. Seeing an opportunity to pile up some missing 'Stros, I jumped in right away, and just like Craig Biggio here, I scored.

That's from 2002 Fleer Triple Crown, by the way, a very nice looking set that has great photos. After this break, I'm only missing a single base card from the Astros team set! Richard Hidalgo (#68) is the rogue card, if you were wondering.

Before I dig into some of the Astros highlights, let's take a look at a few cards that came in courtesy of everyone's friend, the Randomizer. I drew the Orioles, which was a really nice second team. I've already passed most of the cards onto Cliff, aka @OriolesRise, but let's have a look at what he missed out on er, I kept. First is a Calvin Pickering International parallel from 1998 Bowman Chrome. I got to see Calvin play at AAA Rochester on the giant baseball road trip we took in 1999 (I swear I will write about it someday) - not once, but twice, as we saw Rochester play an away game as well. On the trip I met Calvin and Ryan Minor in a hotel lobby playing pinball, and they both signed a few cards for me. Talk about a pair of giants - Pickering was listed at 6'5" 283 lbs. and Minor was a much leaner 6'7" 225 lbs. I also really dug this Chris Davis insert from 2017 Donruss Optic.

I hope Cliff doesn't get too sad about what he may have missed, but I only kept four O's cards out of the stack. The other two were this fabulous Ripken from 1997 Sports Illustrated - a phenomenal set that I was really excited to see in the break. This was from a subset of old SI covers in the checklist. The last O was a lovely Mike Mussina from 1998 Gold Label, hands down one of the most beautiful sets Topps has ever issued.* Definitely goes in my Moose mini PC.

* I will fight you on this, don't test me.

But the 'Stros were where it was really at, of course. Given that the club just signed him to a fat extension (hell yes, get yours José!), I'll lead off with these two parallels from 2017 Optic and Gold Label. The Gold Label is a Class 1 Black parallel. I'm so happy the team actually shelled out some dough to keep Altuve around for the long haul. His extension runs through the 2024 season - his age 34 season, and makes up for the fact that he was on the most team-friendly contract in baseball given his player value.

I mentioned that 1997 Sports Illustrated set, and I netted a pair of Astros from that box as well. I was a little surprised to see these were base cards when I went to catalog them, as I figured they were inserts. The Abreu comes from a set of rookies/prospects in the beginning of the checklist, while the extremely period-appropriate SIber Vision card is from a rather long subset - I think it was about two cards per team when I looked. Very cool and different.

I racked up with a five-spot of 1998 Bowman Chrome needs as well, including some most welcome Killer Bs. 1998 Bowman was a great set.

Of course, though, the highlights of the break came from my favorite set in it - 1998 Gold Label. That's a Class 1 Bagwell, and I was really happy to add that one. I'm only one Class 1 shy of the "base" set now - #5 Craig Biggio. The real score, though, was that Chris pulled me a Class 2 (hence the sparkly silver text) parallel of Richard Hidalgo - my first parallel from the set. The different classes can be distinguished by what type of poses are featured, but the easy method is the name text. Class 2 has "sparkly silver" and Class 3 has "sparkly gold" text, as opposed to the standard gold foil of Class 1.

Thanks for hosting yet another awesome break, Chris! Cliff, I hope you like those Orioles - there were some good cards in there.