Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trade Time- CrazieJoe helps kick off a new wantlist

As I mentioned a few months ago, it’s time to pare down the collection.  So I’ve been trolling other blogs and wantlists to see who needs some of the cardboard I’ve acquired over the last 30 years.  Somehow (it might have been Twitter) I stumbled across CrazieJoe’s Card Corner. He’s in Canada.  He likes the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I happened to be sorting through some hockey at the time and noticed I had some cards on his wantlist.  He had some cards I needed.  It was a match.

It was also the first trade I completed through The Trading Card Database.  With Zistle on life support, I’ve been searching for a new place to keep things organized.  I had signed up at TTCD about three months ago, but hadn’t really entered any cards, mostly because I was dreading having to import my collection over and re-enter it by hand.

With Joe having his want/trade lists on TTCD I finally had a reason to invest some time playing around with the site.  After a couple of days my initial review is...it’s ok.  Zistle has a little better interface for organizing, but the trade function on TTCD is a little easier to use once you have your collection entered.

Enough about that, what goodies came my way from our neighbors to the north in exchange for a stack of Maple Leaf cards?  How about some 26-year-old cardboard?  That’s right, it’s 1991 Donruss.  A set old enough now that it should be showing up as a “retro” insert set at some point.  Among the 14 cards here are some highlights.

A Rated Rookie

Wes Chamberlin. As far as a prospect, Chamberlin never lived up to the hype that a Rated Rookie logo usually inspires.  He lasted for five seasons and appeared in 385 games for the Phillies and Red Sox.

A Yankee Phenom

Kevin Maas.  Before there was Aaron Judge there was Kevin Maas.  A mid-season callup in 1990, the California native mashed 15 home runs in his first 133 at-bats. He ended the season with 21 home runs and enough votes to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Sandy Alomar, Jr despite not making his major league debut until June 29th.  

A Former Oriole

Ben McDonald.  The Orioles drafted him first overall in 1989 (their reward for the disastrous 1988) and he shot through the minor leagues. He actually debuted the same year he was drafted as he was part of the September call-ups during Baltimore’s improbable pennant race. He struggled out of the bullpen, giving up runs in each of his first four appearances.  

Due to injuries and mismanagement by the ballclub, he never materialized into the dominant starter the O’s had hoped he would be. After 7 up-and-down seasons in Baltimore he left as a free agent and ended his major league career in Milwaukee. His relaxing Louisiana drawl can now be heard occasionally on Orioles broadcasts as he sometimes fills in as an analyst.

So why 1991 Donruss?  Because it’s time to finish off some of my childhood sets. I’ve knocked out 1983 Topps, pretty sure I’m done or close to being done with 1991 Topps so it’s time to turn my attention to some other sets from that era.  It was when I was collecting the heaviest so I shouldn’t have too many...OH MY GOD HOW DO I NEED 300 CARDS FROM THIS SET?

Well...that makes it a little more challenging, but I’m off to a decent start and I see these cards at shows all the time in the cheap boxes.  It shouldn’t be hard to knock it out.

Check the wantlist on the right side of this screen and if you’re digging for baseball cards from the same era just let me know.  (My apologies to the hockey collectors, those cards are taking quite a bit longer to organize than I anticipated).

Thanks for the trade Joe, your cards are making their way up to Canada.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Alvarez vs. Chavez - More Than a Convenient Narrative

Boxing is a wonderful sport to cover for a lot of reasons.  One of those reasons - plenty of time to find (or create) a narrative for the big matches.  Headline contests are usually announced months before they happen so that the two contestants have enough time to recover from their previous bouts and to prepare for their new opponents. It also allows the scribes following the fights plenty of time to find their angles on how to cover a fight.  

Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Jacobs- Unstoppable Knockout Machine vs. Underdog Cancer Survivor.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. - Popular Man of the People's Champion vs. Arrogant Undefeated Pound For Pound Champion

Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston - The Loudmouth Showman vs. The Angriest Man in the World.

Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko - The Next Great Heavyweight vs. The Aging Great Heavyweight.

Many times those narratives are true, but often they are built to sell tickets.  After all, who wants to see two guys who like each other fight. Based on all of Timothy Bradley’s pay-per-views - no one.

Fights are more interesting when there is a story driving them. Luckily, this weekend there is a tailor-made storyline.  On May 6th, in Las Vegas, the battle for the soul of the Mexican boxing fan will be fought.  At least that’s what the promoters and writers would lead fans to believe.

In one corner, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., progeny and prisoner of his father’s legacy.  A talented boxer who mixes flashes of brilliance with periods of sullen indifference. While gifted he seemingly lacks the one thing we’re told is most revered in Mexican boxers - the warrior spirit.

In the other corner, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.  A beast of a middleweight. A powerful boxer who throws all his punches with the illest of intentions. He stands in front of his opponents and slugs it out. There is little obvious finesse in his game, just raw power.  Yet, while he demolishes all of those placed in front of him, there is a sense of artifice surrounding him. His detractors claim that he is a TV champion, racking up knockouts and wins against has-beens and never-will-bes while avoiding the one true test - Golovkin.

These are the two men that HBO, Golden Boy Productions, and Corona want us to believe are fighting to become the next great Mexican champion, to take up the mantle of Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Carlos Zarate and Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. Is it fair to either fighter stepping into the ring to have that kind of pressure added to the fight? Was the fight between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter a contest for the legacy of Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns?

No.  Then again, not much about boxing is fair.  If they want to cash the multi-million dollar paychecks (Alvarez is reported to be guaranteed $8 million and Chavez, Jr. $2.5 million) that they will be earning for the fight, then they have to take on a little extra pressure. The questions is, will it matter to boxing fans, Mexican or otherwise?

Chavez, Jr. has much more to gain from this fight than Alvarez.  With a victory he can shed the lackadaisical label that has followed him over his 54-fight professional career. Gone would be the questions about his training habits or his failed drug tests.* Even a long, bloody decision loss could gain him supporters.  As long as he ends the fight on his feet and doesn’t dance around the ring for 36 minutes he will gain respect, much in the same way a too-young Alvarez gained respect in his loss to Mayweather, Jr.

On the other hand Alvarez, he of the cinnamon-tinged hair and Sylvester Stallone commercials is in a bit of a bind.  While this is a good sell for the Cinco de Mayo weekend, it’s not the fight that people really want to see.  They want Canelo vs. Triple-G. Especially now that Golovkin struggled, in the sense that he didn’t render Jacobs incapable of movement for 10 seconds, in his last fight.That tint of vulnerability makes for an intriguing future match-up.  That’s the mega-fight that will get the ever-elusive casual sports fan to plunk down $70 for a pay-per-view.

So, while another notch on his championship belt and the subjective King of Mexican Boxing label would be nice, he stands to lose much, much more than this challenger.  A loss would most likely delay, if not completely, derail negotiations for an Alvarez/Golovkin fight, it would it also prove all of his doubters right.  He’d be unmasked as a made-for-pay-per-view matinee idol. Or at least that’s how it would be spun.

Oddly enough, Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya faced the same problem almost 20 years ago. The Golden Boy faced many of the same criticisms that Alvarez does today.  It took two bloody beatings of Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. to earn some credibility from a lot of Mexican fans.

Adding to the storyline is the subplot that neither fighter particularly cares for the other. Alvarez feels that Chavez, Jr. has disrespected him his entire career (see this post from 2011 where Chavez, Jr. basically says that Alvarez hasn’t earned his respect). Promoter Oscar De La Hoya has done more than his fair share of selling the animosity. For example, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal,

““There’s animosity toward each other. I can’t really explain it. There’s a lot of pride at stake. They have many years around each other, and you have to go back. Something happened. I don’t know if Chavez triggered it or Canelo triggered it, but they don’t like each other. They genuinely despise each other.”

If there is actual substance behind all of this talk, it could make for a great fight.  Pride is a powerful motivator.  Fighting for something other than a paycheck (which both fighters briefly agreed to bet on the outcome before cooler heads nixed the idea) can keep a fighter going when there is nothing left.  The thought of earning the mantel of his father’s legacy could drive Chavez, Jr. to keep going when normally he would throw in the towel.

Could it happen? Of course.  Despite being the heavy favorite, it will be one of the few times that Alvarez won’t be the bigger man in the ring. Chavez has brought in legendary trainer Nacho Beristain to change his preparation. Reports out of his camp are that he is in great shape and has been dedicated to training, something that hasn’t always been the case.

His weight issues in the past have been such a problem in the past that for this fight a clause was inserted in the contract fining either fighter a million dollars for each pound they are over the 164 ½ catchweight.The public seems to think he has a chance, he started as 10-1 underdog and has seen the odds creep into his favor as he was 6-1 underdog as of Wednesday.

Alvarez doesn’t exactly dodge a lot of punches.  He walks through punches in order to land his own, relying on his power to win out during the exchanges.  That works when fighting smaller opponents, but he’s going to be in a ring with a fighter who may weigh up to 175 or 180 pounds on the day of the fight.

Chavez Jr., will be the one to dictate the style of the fight. Does he sacrifice his reach advantage to get in close and wear Alvarez down by leaning on him? Or does he keep his distance, force the champion to chase him and then pepper him with counter-rights and left-hooks to the body? Either way it should be a good fight style-wise. Neither man is afraid to stand in the middle of the ring and slug it out. The only thing that could throw a wrench into the match is Chavez, Jr.’s mental state.

Will he be the fighter who absorbed a beating from Sergio Martinez for 11 rounds before almost pulling off a miracle comeback by knocking down the Argentine in the final round?  Or will it be the Chavez who quit on his stool after being knocked around by Andrzej Fonfara. That’s the story that’s waiting to be written, and it won’t be known until the first punches are landed on Saturday night.

*Following his 2013 loss to Sergio Martinez he was fined and suspended for nine months after testing positive for marijuana. Which, honestly, is one of the dumbest things that boxing tests for. If any athletes should be allowed to smoke weed it’s boxers and football players)