Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Hey. Welcome back readers - How about a 2020 Topps Error Card?

 It's been awhile around these parts. Since the last post, 2020 baseball began, the Baltimore Orioles flirted with a playoff spot and are still on pace to hit the over in their win total, and the Tampa Bay Lightning made it back to the Eastern Conference Final. Guess which one of those is occupying most of my time?

On the baseball card front, things are still moving forward. Lots of trades (sitting at a -780 trade differential), a little bit of retail purchasing, and just one box of cards purchased. Most of the 2020 cards I've picked up this year have been through trades and a couple of group breaks. One of those was a 2020 Topps Series II half'-case break which led to me having quite a few Orioles cards.

When they came in a couple of months ago I logged them and set them aside. They're still sitting on the desk ready to be put away along with some other random cards. The life of a card collector - the sorting is never done. For once, it's a good thing because another card I picked up today sent me back to that pile to verify something. 

As far as I can tell, Topps made a mistake in their base set that no one has written about other than a few Twitter users, at least that I'm aware of after searching on the internet for roughly five minutes. Can you spot the error?

Yeah, that's not Pedro Severino. 

Did I, a life-long Orioles fan, notice it when I first received the card? Nope. It wasn't until today, when I broke open a Topps Orioles team set that I noticed the mistake. Yes, the team set, which is basically all of the Orioles cards from the flagship with a different numbering system, has the same error. A quick check of his 2020 Topps Heritage card shows that they used the correct photo. So at least he can show his grandkids that card.

Imagine working all your life to get your picture on a baseball card and when it comes out - it's not you. Granted, it's card manufacturing in the 21st century so luckily Severino, who didn't play consistently until last year, still has 250+ other cards that most likely have his face on it, but if you only knew him from this card you would think he was a left-handed hitter.

As far as I can tell (again 5 minutes of research) that is a photo of Anthony Santander, the switch-hitting, former Rule V draft pick, internationally known star, who had a breakout 2019 season that has rolled over to 2020.

Good for Santander to find a way to get an extra card in the series. His base card features the awesome flag jersey that the O's wore last year:

It also highlights one of the fun parts of figuring out who is who (who is whom? whom is whom? whom is who) on cards. As you can notice on the Severino card, Santander is wearing orange batting gloves. In his actual card the right-fielder is wearing black batting gloves. There are also photos of him from last year wearing grey gloves.

He also used a couple of different bats last season. One was a black bat with a brown handle. That's not the bat seen on the Severino card.  A few minutes of paging through Getty Photos ensured that he used the combo of the orange gloves, black-handle/light barrel bat without long sleeves. Yes, this is how I spend my hours these days.

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time the wrong photo has been used for a player, most notably is probably the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds card that had a photo of Johnny Ray. Unlike the Bonds card, there is no known correction to the Severino card. And since Severino isn't quite a Bondsian figure in baseball, this error isn't going to go for big bucks on the secondary market.

It'll linger on checklists and price guides with the dubious (UER) tag indicating it's an uncorrected error, you know like half of the early Donruss cards. Hopefully, if fans are ever allowed to interact with players ever again someone will get both players to sign a version of the card and it'll make the rounds as a nice little novelty. 

I suppose it would only be fair that Topps flip the roles in 2021 and release a Santander card featuring Severino on the front.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Update on the state of the blog...

So, last week I was planning on getting all caught up with the 1987 season, and like most of my plans around here, it went sailing out the window. In fact, I am announcing today that the Orioles Victory Card (1987 Season Edition) is officially on hiatus. 

The reason revolves around a good reason. Over at the other place that I write at - Raw Charge - I've accepted the position of Interim Managing Editor. After a couple of seasons as Associate Manager I've stepped into a slightly higher position that will require a little more time on my part and I just can't be sure that I'll have the time to catch up with the posts around here.

I do have a couple of posts that are almost completed here so I'm not entirely abandoning The Hopeful Chase. Card trades are also still happening on almost a daily basis so I'll post about those as well. With 2020 baseball hopefully around the corner I'll be sharing my thoughts on the Orioles quest to win more than 10 games as well.

In the meantime, feel free to head over to Raw Charge to check out the work of our excellent team. I will be using the little power I've accumulated to slide more hockey card coverage than any non-sports card site should ever even think about. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-Seven (1987 Season Edition): Getting behind and trying to catch up

Baltimore Orioles Victory #27: 9-2 over the Oakland A's

1992 Donruss Triple Play Cal Ripken Jr. Little Hotshots

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

Welcome to the return of the lazy blogger. It's hard to believe that June is almost over and I've only posted a few times here. Well, today's post is going to be short as I try to catch up (based on the O's record in June of 1987 it won't be hard).

Let's update this post a little with how the 1987 Orioles are doing on their current homestand (at least by this timeline). The answer - not great. Despite finishing up May with a record number of home runs - 58 - their pitching has abandoned them after the West Coast trip.

Before Mike Boddicker (who else) stepped up to stop the losing streak, the Orioles starters a 9.00 ERA in the previous six games at home. Not a single starter made it out of the sixth inning and the staff as a whole had surrendered 49 runs in those six games while allowing opposing hitters a lofty .347 batting average. 

Scott McGregor, who had been booed off the mound after only lasting 2/3 of inning in his latest start, was the most glaring example of the Orioles pitching futility, drawing the ire of his General Manager: "I'm concerned about that guy out there tonight." Hank Peters was quoted as saying following McGregor's sub-par outing. In his last three starts the veteran lefty had compiled an ERA over 14.00 in just 8 1/3 innings. Not great.

The rookies (John Habyan, Eric Bell, and Jeff Ballard) all had rocky starts as well as they continued to learn their job at the highest level. Peters was working the phones looking for help since Rochester had been bled dry by the call-ups. Mike Flanagan was dealing with a sore arm and was weeks away from returning. It had gotten to the point that manager Cal Ripken, Sr. started entertaining the idea of having Dave Schmidt join the rotation. 

As the ERAs soared, the O's spot in the standings was dropping. Milwaukee leapfrogged them in the standings placing the Os in fourth place, now five games back of the Yankees. Things aren't going to get better.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-Six: The high mark of the season

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 26: 8-7 over the California Angels

1991 Topps Desert Shield Mark Williamson

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

I hate to ruin the ending for you, but the 1987 Baltimore Orioles did not win the World Series. I'll give you a moment to recover... Not only that, but by the time August rolled around they wouldn't even be in contention. June is not a very good month for them (hence the reason I've dragged out the last few victories). However, on this night in May of 1987 it seemed all things were possible, and perhaps after a few years of laying dormant Orioles Magic had returned to Memorial Stadium.

This game started out nice enough for the Orioles, a few home runs early built a 5-1 lead and with Mike Boddicker on the hill, it should have been all over. Unfortunately, the Orioles ace faltered and wasn't able to make it out of the sixth inning. The Angels chipped away at the lead and tied it in the top of the ninth with a home run by Wally Joyner off of Ken Dixon who failed to pick up his sixth save of the season.

Dixon was almost tagged as the loser in the tenth when he surrendered a run-scoring single to Gary Pettis. However, Mike Young, who had been scuffling since returning from the injured list earlier in the month, led off the Orioles half of the inning with his first home run of the year. 

In the twelfth inning, the recently recalled Mark Williamson was able to entice Pettis into hitting a one-out ground ball to second base with two runners on. Instead of turning a conventional double play by throwing to shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr, Rick Burleson tried to tag the runner heading from first to second. That didn't work and the Angels scored a run while the O's were trying to catch Dick Schofield in a rundown. 

Poor execution of a routine play should lead to a loss. For the O's, who had been skating out of tough situations for the last two weeks, they had a little bit of luck left. Lee Lacy led off the bottom of the twelfth with a walk. Down 7-6, Mike Young stepped up to the plate and tried to lay down a bunt on the first pitch. He failed. Same thing on the second pitch. Another failure. Down 0-2, Young tried a different approach - he hit a walk-off home run. 

For the O's it was their sixth home run of the game and their 56th in the month of May (a Major League record) and they had their sixth win in a row as well as their fifth straight come-from-behind victory. They moved into a virtual tie with the Blue Jays for second place, just four games behind the Yankees. 

Unfortunately, this would be the high-water mark of the season for the team. Six games over .500 (26-20) would be the best record they would sport for the rest of the season. Within ten days they would be at .500. By the end of June they would be a remarkable 15 games UNDER .500 and 17 games behind. In the days before the wild card, their season was all but over. 

Of course, no one knew that at the time. For now, the future was looking good, the home runs would never stop and the pitching, patchwork as it might be, would be enough to keep them in contention (pay no attention to the fact that they had three rookies in the rotation and their current set of relievers had blown 14 of 24 save opportunities. Nah, that wasn't a giant red flag at all. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-Five (1987 Season Edition): Catching up on the season

Baltimore Orioles Victory #25: 8-6 over the California Angels

2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Nick Markakis Autograph

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

It's been a little while since we've checked in with the 1987 Orioles to see how they're doing. Since the last check, they've kept winning. Back-to-back 4-3 wins over the Oakland A's finished off the sweep and led to A's manager Tony LaRusa tossing a chair following the last one. It finished off a West Coast trip that saw the Orioles go 8-2 and raise their road record to a league-best 18-9.

They returned home and picked up another victory as they beat the Angels 8-6. So things are running smoothly, right? After clawing their way back into the AL East race (following the win they were in third place, one game behind Toronto and four games behind the Yankees everything should be sunshine and roses. Not so much.

There were several indicators that the winning streak might be a bit misleading. For one thing, the bullpen was still a mess. Don Aase's shoulder wasn't getting any better, in fact he would go back on the DL prior to the win against California (welcome back Mark Williamson, hope you didn't unpack your bags in Rochester). The new guy, Tom Niedenfuer was struggling. Despite picking up a save against the Angels, his stat line wasn't great: 3 games, 4.2 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, and 7 walks. 

That left Ken Dixon as the only reliable arm at the end of the day. Surprisingly, it's a role he adapted to quite well. After posting an 8.53 ERA and allowing 7 HR's in 19 innings as a starter he blossomed in the bullpen. In 12 appearances he posted a 2-1 record, picked up 5 saves and posted a 3.86 ERA. In the Sunday 4-3 win against Oakland all he did was strike out Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Luis Polonia with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Not bad.

Despite the success he wasn't happy in the role. He wanted to be in the rotation ("The saves are nice, but its victories I want"). Since his reassignment to the bullpen he saw the organization bring in two rookies (Jeff Ballard and John Habyan) to fill spots in the rotation and give no indication that Dixon would get a chance to rejoin the starters. Manager Ripken's philosophy was "why fix what's working?" and reinforced the fact that Dixon would be a reliever for the foreseeable future.

The rotation did get one of the veterans back as Scott McGregor started the game against California, but didn't make it out of the fourth inning (Habyan actually picked up the win, marking it three straight wins for Orioles rookies). Mike Flanagan was still on the sidelines dealing with his sore elbow. A soft-toss session went well, but it was still looking like weeks before he would join the team again.

Offensively things were still going well. Most of the order was still hitting (even Rick Burleson finally got in on the home run act, hitting his first against the Angels). During the historic home run streak there was one notable name missing - Cal Ripken, Jr.

After carrying the team offensively for most of the beginning of the year, the Iron Man had a horrible road trip. Hit hit 0 home runs on the trip, drove in only 3 runs and finished it in a 2-for-24 slump driving his average down from .324 to .294. As the season wore on he wouldn't recapture the magic he had over the first two months. He would finish with respectable power numbers 27 home  runs and 98 RBI while slashing .252/.333/.436. Perhaps the consecutive innings streak was taking a toll on him, I wonder if anyone would do something about that (FORESHADOWING!)?

So that's where the Orioles are at as of their 25th win of the season. Could this be the high point of the season?

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-Four (1987 Season Edition): Eddie Murray hitches a ride around the stadium

Baltimore Orioles Victory #24: 4-3 over the Oakland A's

2019 Topps Update Eddie Murray Short Print Variation

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

Ahh, short print variations. Love them or hate them, they are probably going to be cropping up for the foreseeable future in Topps flagship product and update series. Like a of things in this industry I can take or leave them. Usually, if I pull one they're on eBay before the pack wrapper is in the trash. Mr. Murray has a few scattered among the recent sets and I picked this one up off of eBay for a really good price the other day.

It features a rare smile of Murray smiling in Baltimore. It's based on a Getty Images photo that was taken on June 7th, 1998 prior to a game against the Atlanta Braves.  A year after he played his final game in the MLB and two seasons after he last suited up to play for the Orioles (he was in uniform in 1998, serving as a bench coach for Ray Miller) Murray finally had his number retired by the ballclub.

Why do I say finally? Well, because the ball club announced in 1989 that they would retire the number 33. That's right, with nine seasons left in his career the Orioles had already signaled that he would be remembered among the greats of the organization. If that wasn't awkward enough, the announcement came roughly three months after the Birds had traded his contract to the Dodgers for the slightly underwhelming return of Brian Holton, Juan Bell, and Ken Howell. 

The initial announcement wasn't handled well. John Steadman, longtime columnist for The Baltimore Sun, lambasted the decision calling it a "sham and an insult to players, past and present, who hold a deep affection for the city". He then made a case for the club retiring the number of Willie Miranda before Murray's 33. Murray, for his part, seemed indifferent at the announcement, offering up a "what do you want me to say?" when informed about it. The parting, as you can see, was a bit contentious.

Time heals almost all wounds, so by the time this photo was taken, past insults were forgotten. A 1996 trade had brought him back to Charm City for the stretch run and in time to hit his 500th home run in an Orioles home run. So it was all smiles and "Ed-die, Ed-die" chants that day as he toured the permiter of the field in a 1998 silver Corvette.

I would love to say that the 1998 Orioles showed Eddie Murray a tremendous outpouring of respect and prevailed against the Braves that day. They did not. Fellow Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux put on one of his clinics as he twirled a 4-hit shutout, facing just 30 hitters (with 20 of them hitting groundballs). It was the first time in 129 games the Os had been shut out and Maddux made it look easy. Doug Drabek, starting for the Orioles, made it look difficult as he gave up five runs in three innings. The Orioles would drop the game 9-0 in a somewhat quick-paced 2:25.

There was just a bit of star power in Camden Yards that day.. Five Hall-of-Famers (Maddux, Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken, Jr., Harold Baines, and Roberto Alomar) played in the game. Three more hallowed members (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Bobby Cox) sat on the bench for the Braves while the Orioles had Mike Mussina and his future Hall-of-Fame self on the bench. Both GMs - John Schuerholz for Atlanta and Pat Gillick for the O's - have their names in the Pioneer/Builders wing in Cooperstown as well.

Eleven total future members had some hand in the game while already enshrined members Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, and Frank Robinson took part in the pre-game ceremony (Brooks Robinson sent a video tribute). Including Murray, that makes fifteen (!) Hall-of-Famers at the Yard that day. Not too shabby for a random day in June.

For those wondering what's going on in the 1987 Orioles season - we'll get back to that with the next post. I realize that we are way off when it comes to dates (the Orioles 24th victory took place on May 25th) but trust me it'll all work out. There is a bit of a swoon coming up so I figured it would be better to spread things out a bit. Since it doesn't look like there will be 2020 baseball any time soon we'll be sticking to the 1987 season for a little while longer.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number 23: Not all eBay transactions go horribly wrong

Baltimore Orioles Victory #23: 4-3 over the Oakland Athletics

1967 Topps Stu Miller

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

One of the worst parts of social media, a means of communications that has a long and detailed list of faults, is that far more negative experiences are generated than positive.  To be fair (TO BE FAAAAIIIRR) that is a symptom more of human nature than social media itself. One of the few things I remember from orientation training at my currently furloughed place of employment is the stat that customers are 8 times more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. What can we say, human beings love to bitch about stuff regardless of the platform.

So, as part of my desire to live a better, less negative life, I feel I should share some of the positives. An experience that started off rocky, but was resolved to a satisfactory way without the use of threats, curse words, or vague threats of negative feedback posting. 

Thanks to the sudden interest in Project 2020, my Paypal account is a little more flush than usual. With the financial windfall I've made a few donations and decided to tackle at least two cards off of my undisclosed, double-secret Top 10 list. Never published in any form (or at least that I can remember, who know maybe I did mention it on this space, or my previous blog - R.I.P to The Wasteland) the Top 10 has been around since at least 2009. I base that date on some of the cards that appeared on the original list, because that has to be the only reason they are on there. Even I'm not so random in my collecting habits to have some of the cards on there unless it's based on a product that was recent at the time.  I digress.

I put in a couple of "Best offer" bids on two cards that I wanted and waited for a response. They were both accepted and soon I received "Your item has shipped" notifications. Huzzah! (throws shot glass to the floor) Then, following my usual routine I promptly forgot about them. 

So it was a bit of a surprise when I was checking my eBay notifications to see a message pop up from one of the sellers that basically stated, "I'm so sorry, I've searched high and low and can't find the card you ordered."

"Ah-ha," I thought instantly, "We have ourselves a case of seller's remorse. This vile, no-good, beatnik has had second thoughts about the way I masterfully negotiated an amazing price and now want's to back out of the deal so that he may proceed to gouge some poor misguided, less-informed soul."

Because, after all, aren't we now preconditioned to find the devious in all things that don't go according to plan. There lie only con men and ne'er-do-wells on the dangerous open seas that is eBay. It can't be that a human being, susceptible to the facilities of their less-than-flawless origins could have made a simple mistake, right? So transgressions must be dealt with harshly and spare no quarter.

Luckily, I read the rest of his email before replying and saw that he was offering a full refund, or a credit at  higher amount for anything else that he had for sale. The credit he was offering was at a higher price than his original listing that he had on the card that I was buying, so if he was trying to put the squeeze on me his grifting skills were a little off. 

I checked his inventory and saw some cards that would look nice in the collection of an Orioles fan and took him up on his offer. He agreed, apologized again, and said that he would get them out right away. Again, me being me, forgot about them and went about my life.

Then the other day I received his shipment in the mail. Not only were the cards I ordered in there, he had through in a couple of more, including this Stu Miller that's older than me, because he felt bad about the condition of a couple of the cards that I had taken in exchange. 

I thanked him and added him as a seller to keep updated on with new listings and will most likely buy from again should he have something that catches my eye. In our communications he stated that he was a collector first and a seller second and I got the sense that he was sincere about the mistake.

It's so easy to get upset about things these days. Could I have ranted and raved about it? Could I have drawn him up against the eBay tribunal and had him arrested (that's how it works right). Sure, but in the end it's a freaking piece of cardboard. What's the point in getting upset? At the same time he could have just cancelled the order, or claimed it was lost in the mail and not had to have offered me anything. Acknowledgement and understanding go a long way to compromise and happy resolutions.

 ). On the same day we came to an agreement I found the original card from a different seller for about what I offered originally and with a $5 eBay coupon it ended up being less than what I would have paid. Coincidence? Most likely, but also a nice way to button up the whole situation. I've found that if you put out positive energy more likely than not you get it back (if you're dealing with people that have a conscience or an ounce of humanity

It may seem a bit pollyanna in these increasingly cynical times, but at the same token it does make life a little less stressful. It's hard, god-damn hard, work carrying around anger all the time and taking offense at the smallest, most insignificant, sometimes only perceived slights. Save that rage and anger for shit that matters.

Sorry to get off on a moral tangent there for a bit, I just wanted to share a little positivity in this sometimes negative hobby. There are more good people than bad out there, folks.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-Two (1987 Season Edition): The One Where We Talk About Project 2020

Baltimore Orioles Victory #22: 5-4 over the Oakland Athletics

2020 Topps Project 2020 Cal Ripken, Jr. #50 by Gregory Siff

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

Ah, the latest elephant in the card collecting living room - Topps Project 2020. From derision to delight, from overpriced to overwhelming profit, the ongoing on-line release from Topps has definitely generated a ton of publicity. 

For those not familiar with the project, earlier this year Topps announced that they would take 20 iconic rookie cards and have 20 different artists produce an original design based on each of the cards. The cards would be released every business day (two per day) and would be open for purchase for 48 hours. The print run would be however many cards were purchased in those 48 hours. Each card would also have an Artist's Proof version limited to 20 - we'll get back to the Artist's Proofs in a minute.

Personally I was intrigued and was intending to only buy the Cal Ripken, Jr. cards that I liked. Once I saw the price point ($19.99 per card or $34.99 for both of the days cards) I was a little put off. That seemed like a pretty steep investment for a personal collection card.

The initial response was...mixed, but leaning a little heavily to the negative. Each day Topps would post the two cards that were being released and the response on social media tended to go along the lines of:

"Oh my god, this is so ugly"

"How could they destroy a classic card like that?"

"Topps is ruining the hobby!"

"F*CK Topps"

"Where is the Mantle rookie?"

"Eh...I kind of like it."

Sales weren't overly impressive.  Card number one - a 2001 Ichiro rookie by Ben Baller had a print run of only 1,334. For the first few weeks the print runs stayed around that number. Of the first 20 cards released, only three had print runs about 2,000 cards.  The first card to really pop was the first Derek Jeter card to hit the mix - card number 29. Designed by King Saladeen, the Yankee icon hit a then record print run of 9,873 cards. Not bad. 

On the secondary market there wasn't much movement. If you missed a card you could still pick it up for a minimal mark-up, or in some cases, a discount. In mid-April, when it was initially released, the Jeter card was routinely closing on eBay for around $25.00. A little mark-up for the flippers, but not much.

A few days later, a Mike Trout by Andrew Thiele cracked the 10,000 barrier by having a print run of 13,200. Still, it was a bit of an outlier, but it seemed like a little traction was being made. More cards were topping 2,000 in their print runs and pricing was starting to pick up on the secondary market.

Then, two cards were released that made this project catch fire. First was #51 - a Mike Trout by Ben Baller that looked phenomenal. It blew away previous sales by hitting 34,950. Not only were collectors coming around, but it seemed like fans of the artists themselves were starting to get on board. 

The other card that helped blow things up came a few days later. Keith Shore, who had already released a few other cards had his interpretation of Bob Gibson's 1959 card drop. Only 1,451 of these cards were produced, but it also led to a Sporting News post declaring it the "worst baseball card ever manufactured".

You know that cliche that there is no such thing as bad press? Well, here's an example of that being the case. As more and more mainstream media articles delved into the project, sales on the secondary market skyrocketed. Remember that Jeter card you could get for $25? By mid-may it was closing for closer to $125. The same goes for most of those cards. 

Attention wasn't the only factor going into the rise in interest. The artists themselves were pushing the product and fans of their work who had no previous reason to collect baseball cards were starting to get in on the action. Collectors who had been stuck at home with no new product gave in and started buying. People who hadn't had an interested in cards for decades, but rediscovered them as they were doing some COVID Cleaning got back into the hobby and bought them. Flippers, seeing the market start to climb started buying more cards. 

People who had bought the early releases for personal collections couldn't resist the prices they were seeing on-line and started to sell their copies. This thing just took off. It probably helps that a few people received their stimulus checks and tax refunds and may have had a little discretionary income to spend and no where else to spend it since many businesses were still closed. 

Whatever the reasons were, it was a perfect storm for these cards. 

I had made one purchase rather early on - the Ripken card you see above by Gregory Siff. I bought it because I liked it. I also picked up the Sandy Koufax by Andrew Thiele, figuring I could at least get some money back or trade it to a Dodger collector for a nice Orioles card.

When I did finally get them in hand, I checked eBay just to see what they were going for (assuming it would be around $20-$30). My jaw hit the floor when they were closing for $90 all day long. It was a no brainer at that point and I quickly listed the Koufax and accepted an offer a few hours later. It was one of the quickest sales I ever made and it set me up to make some purchases in the future.  In the end, if I had held onto it for another week or so I would have made a little more money, but I sold it at a price I was comfortable at and don't regret it.

Since then the prices seem to have reached a point where they've stabilized. That Jeter card was selling for almost $200 last week, but has since dropped a bit. There is still a crazy demand for the early cards, but with print runs numbering in the 20,000-40,000 range the newer cards aren't experiencing quite as dramatic of a price change. You're still making money on cards you buy, but not quite at the mark-up of some early cards.

So what o I think of overall of this project? I like it. Topps tried something new, although it's a logical progression from The Living Set series that has gone on for a couple of years. I don't like all of the cards that are released, but that's the beauty of the project. Art is subjective, what I think is bad, plenty of people may really, really like. The reverse is true, what I think is awesome may be shat upon by millions.

I did have to stop looking at the comments on social media when Topps announces their daily releases because of comments such as the ones I listed above. As is in most cases, reading the comments is a dumb thing to do in the first place, but I just don't get the hate and the vitriol that some people have. If you don't like it, fine, that's great, don't buy it.

There are collectors out there that act like Topps is forcing everyone to buy every product out there. The beauty of this hobby is that there are so many different ways to approach it, so many different products to buy. Not everything released will appeal to everyone out there. For instance I don't have any interest whatsoever in the current version of Topps Total cards. So I ignore it. There is no need for me to get bent out of shape and post comments on social media every time they release a new wave. What good does that do anyway? Not everything in this hobby needs my comment on it.

For the "ruining the hobby" crowd. Hell, if anything it's probably keeping them in business right now. It's a mystery as to what their costs are to produce these cards, but based on the sales they are definitely generating revenue. Since it's a print on demand product they're also not wasting any cards. Everything they've made, they've sold. In a time when new releases are a bit scarce or on hold, it has to be comforting for them to know that they have a consistent stream of revenue coming in with this product.

There are some valid complaints. Remember those Artist's Proofs I talked about? It seems getting those directly from Topps (at a cost of $199.99 per card) is nigh on impossible. Could Topps distribute those in a more fair manner than first come, first serve? Probably, but in the end does Topps care - probably not. They are a business and selling 40 cards at $200 a shot for five days a week is what they care about. 

The lag time in production is a problem as well. It does take weeks for these cards to actually ship and receive in hand. Some of it is demand (there are persistent rumors that Topps has problems keeping te  one-touch cases that these cards ship in  in stock) and some of it may be related to the virus shutting things down. I doubt Topps is operating with a full staff, and the increased number of cards being bought hasn't made things easy.

I also wonder how the resale value of these cards will hold up once the project is over or once baseball and other diversions return. Will this product become out-of-sight, out-of-mind once it's over or once Topps come up with another project? Should I sell my Ripken now and gamble that prices will drop if this is the latest passing fad?

I remember selling a Shohei Ohtani Topps Living Set for almost $70 when that was a hot product. Now I could buy it for $3 on eBay. Will there be a similar burst in this bubble or will the very nature of this product help keep some if it's value? There are a couple of difference between this and the Living Set cards.

For one, this is a limited set. There will only be 400 cards made and they will all be different. That appeals to set collectors, player collectors, and art collectors. Theoretically, The Living Set could go on forever. As long as major league baseball is played, Topps can drop two cards a week for the rest of eternity. That's an exhausting thought. 

Also, as nice as the cards look in The Living Set, they are all pretty much the same since they are based on the 1953 set. Part of the fun of Project 2020 is the variety of the cards. It is fun looking forward to each card as it's released, even the ones I personally don't care for. Even the cards that individual artists produce are unique. Keith Shore has 20 cards and while they are done in the same style, since they are of 20 players on them they are all different in their own way. I think that will have them hold some value even as time moves past this project.

So what are your thoughts? If Topps does another version of this, what cards or artists would you like to see represented?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-One (1987 Season Edition): The Rookies are Pitching In

Baltimore Orioles Victory #21: 10-6 over the Oakland A's

2018 Bowman Chrome Prospects Alex Wells Purple Auto #138/250

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

The home runs are getting all of the press. The Orioles shook off a loss to Seattle to come back and beat the Oakland A's by bashing a couple more home runs. That gives them big flies in 14 straight games. Dave Schmidt picked up his sixth win of the season (all in relief) while Ken Dixon picked up another save. He might not like being in the bullpen, but he's been way more effective in that role than he was as a starter.

Dixon was charged with the loss against Seattle in his previous outing after a rough 2/3 of an inning in which he gave up 3 runs and 4 hits. Rookie John Habyan had started the game and meandered his way through 5 innings before departing in favor to Dixon. Habyan was called up when Mike Flanagan went on the injured list with a sore elbow. For the first time since 1976 the Orioles had three rookies in their starting rotation (Flanagan was one of those rookies back in '76 along with Scott McGregor, and Dennis Martinez).

The Orioles would love to get similar production out of Habyan, Eric Bell, and Jeff Ballard (spoiler: they wouldn't). So far in the season, they've held their own, combining for a 5-1 record (Bell has 4 of those wins) and giving the ballclub steady innings, something that Flanagan and McGregor hadn't been doing on a consistent basis in 1987. 

While the youth are carrying their weight in rotation, the bullpen has gone in the opposite direction. After starting the season with a couple of rookies in Mark Williamson and Tony Arnold and adding Mike Kunninen, the club has leaned to veterans in recent days. Williamson was sent to Rochester prior to the game against Oakland after the Orioles acquired veteran reliever Tom Niedenfuer from the Dodgers in exchange for John Shelby and Brad Havens. Niedenfuer gives the club another right-hander who has experience in closing out games. It gives manager Cal Ripken, Sr. another option with Don Aase still not 100% due to his arm issues. 

In hindsight it would probably have been better for the club to fully commit to the rebuild, but their home run barrage had propelled them back into the pennant race (at 21-20 they were 5 games behind the Yankees). Instead they brought in another veteran (although they only sacrificed a couple of pieces that weren't in their future plans) and tried to hang on to their glory for a little longer.

As a side note, the trade might have been the best thing to happen to Shelby. The opening day starter for the Orioles had struggled mightily and had been whiling away in Rochester. With the emergence of Ken Gerhart and Larry Sheets hitting every ball he sees into the light towers, the Orioles outfield was extremely crowded. With the Dodgers Shelby was immediately installed as the every day centerfielder and he excelled in the California sunshine. In 1987 he slashed .277/.317/.464 in 120 games (his line was .188/.212/.281 with the O's).  The next season he would celebrate his second World Series victory. Not a bad trade off. Havens put up replacement level numbers in 35 appearances in 87. He was released by Los Angeles in May 1988 and spent a few seasons in Minnesota.

When baseball returns in 2019 the Orioles rotation will probably be a mishmash of veteran journeymen and John Means, but by 2020 the rookies like Alex Wells may start making appearances. There's nothing like a string of rookie starters to give fans hope for the future. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty (1987 Season Edition): Catching up with a trade Post

Baltimore Orioles Victory #20: 15-4 over the Seattle Mariners

1987 Ralston Purina Eddie Murray

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

I am not great at keeping to a schedule. Just when I was caught back up with this series I abandoned it for a few days right in the middle of another Orioles winning streak. For the record, the Orioles 20th victory of 1987 happened on May 19th. I'm writing this on May 26th, so I'm only a week behind, which is better than I thought. I'm not going to lie, dates are a little hazy for me right now. That's a side effect from not working for almost two months.

We also decided on an impromptu trip down south this weekend. The walls of the apartment were closing in a bit and with travel restrictions easing up out west we decided to hit a state park during the holiday. The state just happened to be in Nevada. Hotel rates (I still get a discount despite being furloughed) were pretty outstanding so we hopped in the car and drove to Las Vegas.

It was kind of sad to be in the town and not have the chance to gamble (the casinos were still closed), but at the same time it was nice and relaxed. We wandered around Valley of Fire State Park for the better part of the day and enjoyed being in a different town for roughly 48 hours.

I'm not sure we could have socially distanced more if we tried. Aside from a few lizards we had the entire 8 mile trail to ourselves. I guess people didn't feel like wandering around in a canyon for four hours during their holiday weekend. 

Making the trip even better was that upon our return, I had a couple of non-machinable envelopes waiting in the mail. The trade machine is in full working order and I've been averaging two or three trades a week. 

In this case I worked out a deal with user rsemu in order to bump up my Eddie Murray collection by one. In exchange for a potpourri of base cards (including a couple of checklists), he sent back the wonderful Ralston Purina card above along with some other needs.

Whenever I see a Ralston Purina card it makes me think of Cookie Crisp cereal. I believe as a little kid that would have been the delicious, nutritious breakfast of choice when I wanted to pull some cards out of a box of sugar. I really wish Topps would get back into the cereal / baseball card partnership game again. It's been ages since I've seen a baseball card in a box (although I know there are some MLS cards on the back of certain boxes). 

As for the Murray card, that marks the 301st different Eddie Murray card I have recorded. According to TCDB that ranks me 8th among Murray collectors. Not bad, but moving up the list from here will take some time. I need another 45 different cards to get to 7th, and over 100 to get 5th. The top collector has 1,148 of the 4,540 cards in the database so I don't think I'm catching him this year. 

Personally, Murray is the player I have the most different cards of, which is good because I do label myself a Murray collector. In second place, at no surprise, Cal Ripken, Jr. What may be a surprise is that I've put no real effort into picking up his cards and I have 289 different Ripken cards.

This sweet Joe Orsulak 1989 Upper Deck was also part of the deal. Nothing beats seeing Joe standing around the batting cage waiting his turn. I only have about 55 of the inaugural Upper Deck cards in my collection (almost half of those are Orioles cards) at this point so it's always fun to see a new one come into my life. It really is a perfectly designed card. 

Most importantly he finished off my 1991 Upper Deck needs. The best card of the lost?

Upper Deck loved throwing these triple-exposure cards in their base sets and it broke up the routine of normal exposure cards. 

Now, I see it completed my set, but according to my records I have 799/800 of the base set. The one "missing" card - the Chipper Jones rookie card. Which really pisses me off because I know I have that card somewhere. I also know it's not where the bulk of my collection is because every time I stumble across it I think, "Wow, I should really put that with my other cards." 

Such is the joy of moving twice in two years. Things get jumbled up in different boxes. I have a vague idea of where it may be and I'll dig through the box tomorrow to see if it's there. I really hope it is because I know if I trade or buy another copy I'll immediately find the original. 

All in all, not a bad weekend considering the circumstances.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Nineteen (1987 Season Edition): Of prospects past

Baltimore Orioles Victory number 19: 6-0 over the Seattle Mariners

2001 Fleer Ultra Prospects Carlos Casimiro / Ivanon Coffee

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

It was another ho-hum win for the Orioles against the Mariners. Terry Kennedy and Eddie Murray hit home runs while Mike Boddicker went the distance giving up only three hits. If your bullpen is a little shaky, it's always nice when the starter goes the distance. For Boddicker it was his third win of the season, the second via shutout. On the season he's worked into the seventh inning in seven of his nine starts and he O's are 7-2 in games he's started. He should have more than three wins, but the fact that he's feeling healthy and throwing well is good enough for him at this point.

With Fred Lynn sitting the game out after re-injuring his left shoulder against the Angels the O's went with a slightly reconfigured outfield. Alan Wiggins made his debut in left-field, Ken Gerhart was in center, and Lee Lacy was in right. One thing that's noticeable about the 1987 team is how many players in the line-up weren't brought up through the Orioles system.

The only players drafted and developed by the Orioles that started in the field that day were Gerhart, Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, and Mike Young. That pales in comparison back to the days when the Os were winning pennants. It would also mark a trend that would continue for the better part of the next 30-40 years - the O's struggling to develop multiple prospects at the same time.

There always seems to be one or two players coming through the system - Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Zach Britton, Erik Bedard, etc. They just never managed to string a bunch together at the same time. The late 1990's to early 2000's was a particularly bad time. There wasn't much in the cupboards, which when you're looking for rookie cards of your favorite team, is pretty depressing.

Carlos Casimiro was signed as an international free agent by the Orioles in 1994. He progressed through the system showing a little power in his bat - he had 18 home runs in Bowie in 1999, but nothing too showy. He got a brief call-up in 2000, appeared in 2 games, picked up 1 hit in 8 plate appearances, but did manage to drive in 3 runs. He was released by the Orioles after the season, kicked around in the minors for another year and then played internationally for a few years.

Ivanon Coffie was another international free agent signing and would be the first of three players from Curacao  to play for the Orioles (Jair Jurrjens and Jonathan Scoop as the others). Much like Casimiro, he slowly worked his way up through the system and saw his career peak with a call-up to the majors in 2000. He had a few more appearances than Casimio as he hit .217 in 67 at bats for the O's that season. We would be traded to the Cubs for future considerations that winter.

Hopefully, the current ownership has set up a system that will develop players a little bit better than previous regimes have. As a mid-market team they can't buy championships through free agency, they have to groom the majority of the players that are going to contribute in the future. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Eighteen (1987 Season Edition): The Iconic Cards..some thoughts

Baltimore Orioles victory number 18: 3-2 over the California Angels

1982 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie card (and a couple of other guys)

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

The other day, a collection of writers, editors, and a select group of outsiders (sadly, I was not invited) over at The Athletic got together and put together a list of the 25 Most Iconic Sports Cards in history. Their panel got together with a list of cards, rated every card on a scale of 1-100, tallied the results and kicked out a list. 

To save you some time (although I recommend you read the whole thing if you are able) and for those that aren't subscribers (though you should be, with the decimation of newspaper sports departments it is now the best place to find constant quality sports writing) I will spoil their list and give you the top five:

5. 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle

4. 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan

3. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth

2. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle

1. 1909-11 T206 White Border Honus Wagner

I'm pretty sure anybody putting together a similar list would have some combination of those five cards sitting at the top. In all, the list was pretty good. There were some cards I didn't agree with, but isn't that half of the fun of putting a list like that out there - hearing people bitch about what was left off?

The word "iconic" that is by its very nature a subjective word. This isn't a list of the most valuable cards or the rarest cards. The writers were looking for cards that, "through the decades, from generation to generation, there have been certain cards that help define the industry."

The 25 that they put together pretty much do that, but there is a heavy influence on pre-war and 1950's-60's era cards. Everybody loves vintage! In fact, the 1986 Jordan, the 1986 Upper Deck Griffey (7th), the 1979 OPC Gretzkey (10th), and the 1980 Topps Bird/Johnson/Erving  (20th) cards are the only ones that have been released during my lifetime, and I'm rapidly moving towards old on the age spectrum.

As another new generation moves into collecting I'm wondering how lists like this are going to evolve. Generation X is overtaking the Boomers when it comes to "nostalgic" collecting. While we appreciate a good Willie Mays rookie (14th) or a 1954 Hank Aaron (9th) these aren't the cards we grew up collecting. They weren't the ones our mom's threw out when we left home. 

Don't get me wrong, no one is ever going to hold a 1986 Jose Canseco Donruss in higher regards than the 1952 Mantle, but at some point hearing our fathers or grandfathers talk about putting those Mantle cards in their bike spokes doesn't mean as much to us as it did to them. 

If I had veto power over the list, there are probably two modern cards I would add as icons of the next generation of collecting. Sadly, I have never, nor do I plan on ever owning either of these cards, but to me they represent the post-Junk Wax era of collecting (which I guess would be the "Big Hit Era").

1. The 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols Autograph /500

lifted this image from 

 In my post-college, finally have disposable income return to the hobby, this was the Big Kahuna of cards. Time and injury may have dimmed the impact that Pujols had on the hobby during his prime, but when he exploded onto the scene this was the card to have. It also transformed the Bowman brand, especially Chrome, from being a nice place to do some prospecting into the big hit, must-have rookie cards of the latest superstar. 

In the February copy of Beckett 16 of the 20 cards on their Hot List are some version of Bowman Chrome Autograph products (either Draft or Prospect). I don't have a copy of a 2001 Beckett laying around, but I'm going to guess that wasn't the case in 2001. Yes, part of that is due to Topps/Bowman having a monopoly on the baseball market, but even if Upper Deck or Fleer were churning out cards, I doubt they would be able to compete with the demand for Bowman Chrome product. 

In the era of chasing the big hit (the Pujols card was a redemption, so sorry if you pull one now) this was the card everyone was chasing in the early 2000's.  With my veto power I replace the 1911 T3 Turkey Red Cabinets Ty Cobb card with this Pujols card. Sorry, love the Turkey Red design, but this card should be on the list.

2. 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout RC

Yeah, I got this photo from as well. Please don't sue me.
That copy of Beckett that I mentioned earlier? Guess what the number one card was - yup, Mike Trout's rookie card. I have a feeling that in another 20 years, my generation will be talking about this card the way my dad's talks about the 52 Mantle. 

The beauty of this card, besides being the rookie card of the best player in baseball, is that it didn't take thousands of dollars or the best luck in the world to own it. In 2011 you could have wandered into a Target, your local card shop, some Wal-Greens, or Wal-Marts, picked up a couple of packs of a basic product and pulled a pretty pristine copy of this card for a few bucks. Unlike the Pujols card which is limited to only 500 copies, there are most likely tens of thousands of Trout rookie cards floating around and god knows how many still in their packs. 

Will you be able to get your hands on any of those unopened packs? Well, there's always a chance that a rummage through a Goodwill or a yard sale may produce a box or two (the equivalent of finding a Honus Wagner in the attic) chances are you'd have to pay a pretty penny for the chance. A quick check of eBay shows that an unopened hanger pack of 2011 Update sold for $1,205. That's right, just the chance to pull one is going for four figures. Granted, there is a chance to get your money back if you happen to pull one of the Cognac or Diamond Anniversary parallels, but I think that $1,200 would be better spent on buying a couple of ungraded but clean looking copies of the regular card.

With my veto power I'm removing the 1915 Sporting New Babe Ruth (16th) and inserting the Trout card at number 12, bumping all those behind him down a few notches.

Like I said, I think overall the list is pretty good and it will be interesting to see what it would look like in ten years or so. I have a feeling that the 1986 Jordan will move up into the top two or three and interest in Babe Ruth cards may fade a little. Maybe Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin find their rookie cards sneak onto the list. 

Sadly, as iconic as it is to me and other Oriole fans, I don't think the Ripken rookie makes the list at any point.