Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Year in Review

What? Already?

Another year went by faster than Mike Trout's run, and I can't believe it. 2012 was quicker than 2011. If this keeps up, 2032 is gonna go by in 10 days. But still, this year was a pretty nice one for me, as I got my 1000th post, my 4th anniversary as a blogger, and my 17th birthday. So it was pretty cool. But, as usual, before we move forward, before 2013 comes in and we act like we were waiting for it, we first have to look back, get one last breath of 2012 before we run out of air. As always, I'll start every sentence with 'this was the year that...', because we have to remember that things actually happened this year.

This was the year that Ichiro Suzuki joined my team. And he was freaking amazing. I know he didn't perform like we all wanted him to, but he still hit well in October, a period when nobody else on the team was hitting very well.

This was the year that I collected more Heritage than usual. Because this year's set was indeed that good. I was very impressed, more than usual. I most likely will get even more packs next year and the year after, because I love both the sets they showcase.

This was the year that my blog readership went up a little bit more. Not earth-shatteringly more, but to a degree.

This was the year that a good friend of mine was in a movie with Bill Murray and Bruce Willis. In a good role, too. And also, this was the year that a good friend of mine was in a movie being considered for a few Oscar nominations. And it's the same flick. So basically, this was a good year for that friend of mine.

This was the year that I went to more Sixers games than I did Phillies games. That's a new one.

This was the year that the Phillies and Eagles were absolutely terrible. And the Sixers weren't too bad.

This was the year that I pulled, out of a pack from a Target in Lake George, New York, a dual game used jersey card of Johnny Bench and Buster Posey. Now both of them have the same number of championship rings. Well how about that. Buster needs one more MVP to match Bench's full accolades, though.

This was the year that a knuckleballer won the Cy Young, and his team promptly dumped him.

This was the year that, on TV, Dexter stopped being good, American Idol stopped being credible, someone no one had heard of beat out Blair Warner and The Guy Who Burned His Hands Clean Off for a million dollars, Modern Family kept being funny, and Wolowitz went to space, got married, and went gambling with his father and law.

This was the year that they came out with 3 comic book movies that people can agree are all good. I hope.

This was the year that Topps came out with a set that copied my Custom Card formula. And I loved it.

This was the year that, after schooling the Orioles, my team bellyflopped in the playoffs. Never again. Hopefully.

This was the year that I messed up on a K-turn. But it happens. Hopefully 2013 will bring better news on this front.

This was the year that I finished my first screenplay. Which was pretty nice.

This was the year that I collected considerably less baseball cards than before, in the 5th anniversary of my entrance into the hobby. I'm on the way out of collecting big-time, folks, but not on the way out of blogging. Not anytime soon.

So that's it. As for the future, I expect tons more Custom Cards, more Topps acquisitions, and more of the stuff that made me happy this year. And I hope all of you out there have just as nice of a 2013.

And to all the aspiring 17-year olds, all the young people who wanna be like me, who aspire to write just as well as me, to do what I've done at this age, I have one piece of advice.

Work on your k-turn.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 40 Customs of the Year (#s 10-1)

Top 10. The ones a lot of people have been waiting for. Let's get to it.

#10- Curtis Granderson, Yankees
The Second Coming of Dave Winfield needed a good custom. So, I gave him one. One that has a nice show of light, and how it's reflected onto his uni. It's a powerful shot, one shot from below. In terms of photo, I was torn between that one and one that had a fisheye lens like last year's Reyes. I'm glad I chose this one.
#9- Bryce Harper, Nats
Yeah, because he needed a good one. The shot basically just spells out 'spring', as it has potential, springs youth, and is a nice, hopeful shot of a young prospect. The only flaw was that I used his college position, but what do you do. 
#8- Yadier Molina, Cardinals
I feel like I make a good Molina custom every year, with last year's nice catcher's mask shot. This one, you catch the rain, you catch the sliding cub, you catch his tattoos, and you catch the crowd. It's a great shot, subdued aways, but still great.
#7- Dee Gordon, Dodgers
Now Dee didn't have the season we all wanted him to, but just look at that card. The shot is magnificent, the color is just right, the background is just as prominent. If I could, I would have zoomed in a bit, but that is great as it is.
#6- Matt Wieters, Orioles
The greatest Oriole never to have a Topps card. I've given him four in a row, and four good ones too. Don't think Topps can say that.
#5- Mike Trout, Angels
The other big rookie this year. I made one of him last year, but it wasn't very good. I toned the color down on this one a bit, just enough to make it seem a bit older. The way I cut his head into the design was nice, too. A fun card for a fun player.
#4- Angel Pagan, Giants
The sequel to the Brian Wilson card from last year. Grinning Bearded Giants. 
#3- Joe Mauer, Twins
When I made this, I already knew it was one of my best. The crowd, the up, the shot of the hit, the catcher, the number well colored. All these elements added up to an amazing custom, and one that is up there in the best of. The design only adds to this greatness.
#2- Chipper Jones, Braves
I knew this would be his last season, and I wanted to make one that would truly reflect the great career he had. Mission accomplished.
#1- Andre Ethier, Dodgers
The story of the Dodgers was insignificant, but this card had a nice one. All this year, The Fan, one of my most loyal custom requesters, had asked for an Andre Ethier, even if he wasn't performing. I needed to wait it out, until a few other Dodgers I made had time to breathe. Then, I made this. The cloud of dust settles nicely, as does the colors on his uniform. The way this reacts to light makes it even better, and makes it one of the many great sideways shots. I think this one's amazing, and one of my best.

So, there you go. 40 amazing customs. I bet you can make another batch of great ones next year.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top 40 Customs of the Year (#s 20-11)

I had a busier day today, so you're getting the next ten now. Not much else to say.

 #20- Yoenis Cespedes, A's
This was the big rookie, in March anyway, so I really needed to go all out in customizing him. In the end, there was a nice dugout shot, with some great colors, and a great spring training uni. I still like how it came out.
#19- Marco Scutaro, Giants
Another WS hero that needed customizing, and one that got a nice photo, too. I feel that the color in this is a lot more lively than it would have been, as the green, and the backboard colors are still vibrant. Plus, the foreground is just as eminent.
 #18- Ben Revere, Twins.
You'll be finding a lot of nice sideways shot from here on in in the countdown, which is nice. This one is cool, as it features a nice play at the plate. The catcher is well lit, as well as Revere. You can see Ron Gardenhire bristling his chin bush from the dugout, too. Also, it's a nice shot of the right snap being taken, as the dust is still settling and Revere is still sliding. Nice shot for a future Phillie.
#17- Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
This is what I call 'The Skyfall Card'. The reason behind this is there's a scene in this year's Skyfall, a great movie btw, where Javier Bardem's character, near the end, faces the camera as the background is awash in fire. There's orange and yellow and light all behind him, and he's just there, mad even, embracing the darkness. That shot is what I thought of the first time I saw this photo. The background was covered in the light of a sunset, or something, and there's CarGo walking away from it. An amazing shot, amounted to a great card.
#16- Freddie Freeman, Braves
Another cool sideways shot, this one from more of a higher view. I feel like they took this from like a sky-cam, very high up, as the shadow indicates. It's still very cool, and the colors of the uniform contrast with the dirt.
#15- Adam Greenberg, Marlins
One of the most amazing stories of the year, and one of the best fitting shot-to-set situations.
#14- Jamie Moyer, Rockies
Another great dugout shot, one of one of the longest-tenured pitchers in years. The shot reflects his story too, as he's just waiting there, like he's been his whole career, waiting for another shot, another chance to blow us all away.
#13- Manny Machado, Orioles
Moving to the other end of the age spectrum, there is a shot of one of the best young players right now. I made sure to post this the week I went to an Orioles game, so I could show my O's-fan-cousin, and see if he liked it. Of course he did.
#12- Justin Upton, D-Backs
Kurt Bevaqua would be proud.
#11- Brandon Belt, Giants
Every postseason I make like 3 or 4 customs per team, in an effort to stay relevant when the teams do win. This was one of the better ones of that time, as the shot, and uniform, are brilliant. The best part is that this is one of the four first alphabetical ones, so I get to look at this one every time I open my folder.

Well, tomorrow I reveal the top ten. Which is nice.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 40 Customs of the Year (#s 30-21)

Ten down, thirty to go.

I feel like this year was probably my best in terms of custom quality and quantity, but worst in terms of readership. Do people not like the customs anymore? If not, make your opinion known.

On with the countdown...

#30- Josh Hamilton, Rangers. 
I feel like I didn't do enough dugout shots this year, since they're usually great whenever I do. This is a nice one, that shows the area of thought on Josh's face, mixed with a nice array of toned-down colors to show his thought process. A really good one, especially for Hamilton fans.
#29- Nate McLouth, Orioles
You'll be seeing a lot of Orioles on this list, for no real reason, just I did a lot of great customs for them. This one of Nate McLouth is a great shot mixed with different shades of light, and great contrast. 
#28- Chien-Ming Wang, Nationals. 
The Greatest Taiwanese Pitcher of All Time. I needed to make a good custom for him, since my last-year's effort wasn't that good. This one is a great pitcher's shot, one that has great color, and shows the fury of this awesome pitcher.
#27- Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Okay, so I had to have a great one here, seeing as Panda here was the hero of that series. This one displays a lot of vantage points- the crowd, the marlins fan behind the wall, the catcher, the umpire, and Pablo. All their expressions are different, and all contribute equally. Also, the shine off of his helmet is a great touch.
#26- Starlin Castro, Cubs
No picture can symbolize the fall of the Chicago Cubs much like this one. The color, drained from the throwback uniform. The shadows, covering his face. The expression, a sad one. The mood, somber. The background, contrasted, as if the rest of the world does not share Chicago's view. An artistically brilliant card, one I'm proud of.
#25- Nick Swisher, Yankees
For every serious card, like the Starlin, you need a fun one. This card has the right amount of fun to make it awesome.
#24- Melky Cabrera, Giants.
Even before the steroid thing, I kinda knew I needed to make a good card of Melky, so I did. The look on his face is one of excitement and relief, and the shot of him hugging the base is one that speaks volumes.
#23- Billy Butler, Royals
Here's a guy I always seem to make great customs of. Also, a good dugout shot of him, simply waiting to get back up there, and seeing what's going on when he's not. A great use of the blue to showcase that mood.
#22- Yu Darvish, Rangers.
Usually my first custom of the year is sorta a dud. This year, I put all my work into making this one look iconic, new, and bold. The colors are great, the blue is great, and the picture is great. I think I might have washed it out too much, and that was the key to many of the more subdued customs this year.
#21- Pedro Alvarez, Pirates.
We end on a throwback to the 2009 OPC set. I think my Jose Reyes from last year reminded me of this set, but the border, as well as the shot, just spell out O-Pee-Chee to me, which is cool. The shot is great, and any batting shot with a catcher in there is ultimately cool.

Well, you've seen 20 good customs. Over the next 2 days, you'll see 20 great ones. More to come.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 40 Customs of the Year (#'s 40-31)

Is it possible to celebrate your own work?

I really hope I'm not being too cocky here, but I think I had a great year of customizing. And I hope that's not a bad thing. Because I'm about to begin ranking my 40 best customs. Is that kinda touchy for the guy who made them to do? Either way, my opinion sorta matters, so here's the first ten.

#40- Fernando Rodney, Rays
This was one of the better baseball stories of the year, one of the better closers of the 2000's returning to the Rays and pitching fire. He made the All Star Team, and probably got the Comeback award. I think this custom truly captures his stuff. There were a lot of 'closers celebrating' cards, but this one edges most of them out.
#39- Ryan Howard, Phillies. Last year I made a Howard custom that was incredibly good, and so good that it's hanging on my wall. This year, while it wasn't the best season for Howard, it was still a great treat to see his comeback, and to see it commemorated with this custom was cool. Again, it's not as good as his 'pointing the bad at the camera' shot from last year, but it's good.
#38- Jim Johnson, Orioles. I posted this the day after I had returned from Camden Yards, the game the Orioles won because the umps screwed up. This card is cool, and uses the new uniforms to its advantage, but I was still pissed at the fact that the Yankees lost. Johnson wasn't even pitching very well.
#37- Raul Ibanez, Yankees. Mr Clutch for us this year, represented by a shot that strikes fear into the hearts of relievers everywhere. This is similar to the Howard card from last year, because it looks like he's threatening to kill somebody. And he'll do it.
#36- Jason Heyward. The Braves' season was marred by a few setbacks, as was Heyward's. I really wish he'd start playing like he did his rookie season, and then it'd give this card justice. This was a nice basestealing shot, one that makes him look cool.
#35- Carlos Beltran, Cardinals. One of the most underrated Future Hall of Famers in baseball had a great season, and I celebrated that with a cool shot here. The colors may be a bit strong, but I think the red is strong, and outweighs the grey.
#34- Norichika Aoki, Brewers. When I first made this one, I thought this was one of my best. Now, that excitement has gone down a bit, but I still think it's a great card. Aoki's profile balanced by the light and the field is a cool image, one that wasn't very well received when it first came out.
#33- Craig Kimbrel, Braves.Another celebrating closer shot, this one made awesomer by the background colors and Kimbrel's uniform. Craig may not have won the Cy Young this year, but he still had a great season, and this custom immortalizes.
#32- Prince Fielder, Tigers. I knew I had to make a great custom for this guy, seeing as how he was one of the bigger acquisitions of 2012. So, I made one of him trotting to the bases after hitting one long. I think that worked pretty well.
#31- Chris Davis, Orioles. The shot of his catch contrasted with the crowd reacting, mixed with the nice use of grain and great design, makes for a great, perfect custom.

I'll put up the next 10 tomorrow, and I'll promise there's more awesome ones coming.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Last Year by Year Customs: 1993

Well, we've made it to the end. These are the last customs of the year, with the exception of one last one I may or may not make for next week. Still, it ends on a pretty strong note. Look at that Gonzalez card. That looks like some kind of movie poster, or something. It's definitely a work of art.
Mr. Cycle-Hitter
I think this is a pretty nice one, too. I love the horizontal ones.

Coming Tomorrow- Well...Christmas. I may or may not be getting packs.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Year by Year Customs: 1991

We begin the 2nd to last day of Year by Year with a rookie Red Sock. Can't you feel the excitement? 
But, on the upside, here's a Yankee.
 Yes, I know I spelled his name wrong, and it's 'Jonny'. Oh well.
I couldn't resist to add just one more throwback shot. You know me.

Coming Tomorrow- One last Topps design, the last 'normal' one.

Swish leaves, and somehow it's a relief

No, not a relief that he's leaving the Yankees. For a few years he was one of my faves. No, it's a relief that he's leaving the Yankees for a team that I like, and a team that needs him.

The Indians have always been my 3rd or 4th favorite team, due to my Cleveland-loving friend Josh.I've never rooted against them, because they're always a fun team to watch. So to see Nick Swisher, a great outfielder and player, signing with a fun team like the Indians, is a relief indeed. Besides, maybe now the Indians will be a better team with Swisher, and maybe get into the playoffs for once.

If they have Francona, then it definitely can happen, in a matter of time.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012- The Year in Irony

Longtime readers of this blog will probably tell you one thing about me: I get things wrong a lot.

I have been known, several times, to make wild, proud statements about things, only to be proven wrong within a matter of months. Sometimes it's subtle. Sometimes it's funny. Though I'll say that I'm wrong more times than I'm right, the times where I hit it directly on the head are scarce.

So, as we're wrapping up the year with all these lists and retrospects (and I'll do my own, like usual, on New Year's), I'd like to take you back through the year in irony, the year in statements that seemed true at the time, only for them to be wrong months later. And, for extra measure, I've included a few instances where I was really right in predicting the future.

For some reason, we're starting in November 2011.

Nov. 5th, 2011: "Jim Thome will most likely retire in Philly pinstripes." Well, he hasn't retired yet, and he's currently in Orioles garb. Which is still pretty nice.

Nov. 7th 2011: The entire freaking post, about Melky Cabrera. I know, Melky Cabrera tested positive for roids, but all of me saying "he's washed up" and '"he'll never be good again" was so totally wrong.

Nov. 11 2011: "this could be a renaissiance in Miami. People in the area could flock to Miami to see the huge stars, along with the ones they already have, swat homers and make plays. Hell, the Marlins could even be a challenge for Atlanta and Philadelphia for the throne (the Mets are kinda out of it)." My two mistakes here: thinking the Marlins would be good, and neglecting to mention the 5th team in the NL East, the one that would eventually win the damn division. Actually, there was a third- thinking Miami would hold onto most of these people.

Dec. 5 2011: "the Marlins are shaping up to be a huge, colossal force that may, just may, put the Braves in 3rd place." They ended in 2nd, three places above the Marlins. And just to prove I was right about something, "There's a chance that even Washington could kick their ass in the standings."

Dec. 8 2011: "What if Wilson ends up pulling a Kazmir and sucking his ass off for the Angels" Okay, I was kinda right on this one, but he still made an All Star team. And besides, I still said "Add Pujols into the mix, and that awesome pitching rotation, and the Rangers have absolutely no chance to clinch next year. Which is perfect for me, since I hate the Rangers." Well yeah, the Rangers didn't clinch, but neither did the Angels. Also: "The Angels are going to be good next year. What the Yankees need to do is be better than the Angels." The Yanks sure were better. Not by much, though. I'll say that I really hope the 'Angels will rule' posts this year will be ironic by next year.

Dec. 9 2011: On Trumbo, "I don't think he'll be playing first anymore." Well, he still did better than Pujols at it, but I think he's an outfielder now.

Jan. 21 2012: "Right now the A's are practically poo-poo." Give them a few months. "And if they had Manny Ramirez, then they'd be a little less sucky." Well, they never had Manny Ramirez to begin with, but they were less sucky anyway.

Jan. 27 2012: I wanna point out that I prefaced MLB Memes by about 6 months by calling this post 'Juan More Outfielder for Philly'.

March 12 2012: "Hopefully, with a better team, the Dodgers will return to October...until the Phillies win in the end." Wrong annnnnnnnnnnnd wrong.

March 19 2012: The entire post, saying Beltran would be no good, and was just a way to replace Pujols. He wasn't, and had an excellent season. OH! AND ALSO: "they probably won't get back to the postseason without Pujols." Oh, gosh, now that one just HURT!

April 4th 2012: Mistakenly insinuating that A-Rod can still hit.

April 20th 2012: All of the stuff about the Orioles being in a tough spot, and how they'd always be in last.

April 22nd 2012: On David Freese: "Allow me to break the ice- the home run last year will be his defining act. He's the David Tyree of the MLB." He actually had a better season this year, which wasn't good for a Freese hater like me. Also, I just got that Freeze/ice joke, and I wrote the damn thing.

April 23rd 2012: " Hopefully we'll have a stronger May and June." Nope. The Phils kept sucking for the rest of the summer. They still had a decent August and September though.

April 29th 2012: "There, I said it Topps. Don't screw up with Harper." Yeah, they hammered him pretty well.

May 8th 2012: Brief summary of this post "Javy Guerra is a great closer and will be closing for the rest of the season!" "He got hurt, idiot" "Uhhhh....exit, stage right!"

May 28th 2012: "the two teams everyone thought would end up in last (Royals and White Sox) have been playing pretty well" By the end of the season, both teams would be shaking their heads.

June 14th 2012: "The man you see above currently holds the best ERA in the NL." Just days after I wrote this post, Beachy was yanked onto the DL. Oops.

June 16th 2012: "He's currently the Orioles' top ace." Days after I posted this one, Matusz got hurt and was switched to the bullpen. Oops?

June 19th 2012: "At least they still have Beckett." By the end of the season Beckett would be gone and Dice-K would be on the DL again.

June 30th 2012: On Brian Roberts: "I hope his injury-free streak sticks around awhile, too." It didn't.

July 5th 2012: On Zack Greinke: "So if and when this guy gets traded, I hope it's to a team that needs him." Did the Angels really need him? No. Do the Dodgers? Yes, they certainly do.

July 9th 2012: "Currently the Nationals, Pirates and White Sox are all in first place in their respective divisions"By the season's end, only one would still be atop their division, and look what happened to them.

August 20th 2012: "Hopefully, Adam will keep that arm healthy for a while." He didn't.

September 11th 2012: "Chris Sale and David Price are close behind, but it's Verlander's year." Price would end up taking the Cy Young from Verlander, in a controversial, but still kinda fitting, decision.

October 11th 2012:  On a picture of David Freese, "In other news...this guy neeeds to break a bone." Well...he, uh...he did. I brought this piece of irony to light the week of the car accident, but man, that one hurt.

November 7th 2012: " I want 2013 to have absolutely NOBODY to come out and say "hey, I took steroids." It really makes me mad, because then I'll lose respect for them, too." Not even a month later, my boy Chooch was outed for steroid use. NOT EVEN A MONTH LATER! Boy am I wrong a lot.

So, to sum up, I was incorrect countless times this year, especially in places where it counted. This is one of the best blogs to just read a year ago. I'm probably the worst oracle in the world, and I eat it up. In are five things I know aren't gonna come true:

1. Bonds, Clemens inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Jose Mesa.
2. Padres clinch their division.
3. Astros get a higher place in the division than the Angels.
4. Jason Bay will be named MVP
5. The Dodgers and White Sox will play each other in the World Series. And I say this because I myself predict it to happen.

Year by Year Customs: 1990

A wild yet still cool set leads off the last few days of Year by Year. It's been a fun month of customs, and it'll total up to the most amount of customs per year. 

Also, as you can probably tell, 3 out of 4 of these are from the update set.

Dunno if he was 'Howie' or 'Howard'.

Coming Tomorrow- A design that has always been hellish to customize. Wish me luck.