Sunday, February 25, 2018

Custom Season's Open

There wasn't really any doubt as to who was gonna get 'first custom of the year' privileges. Besides, I wasn't gonna waste my Stanton that early.

Shohei Ohtani was one of the biggest baseball stories during the offseason, so of COURSE I'm gonna hop on that bandwagon early and make a solid custom of the guy. It's too soon to tell whether or not he'll be successful during the 2018 season, but these guys seem to be convinced, so I'm not gonna stop them.

As usual during Spring Training, customs might be sporadic on account of photographers being paid less to shoot games, and getting less photos from games online, so this may be a stop-start process, but I have a few made. What I might do this year is allow the Spring Training customs to be standalone, and just make new customs of these guys during the regular season, depending on whether or not the potential lives up to the reality.

But yeah...enjoy the fact that Mint Condition Customs are back for the season. I certainly am.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Friar What the F--k

Forgive the bawdy Robin Hood pun, but...of all teams to sign a multi-year deal with a franchise-building first baseman...I wasn't expecting the team who has literally nothing BUT a franchise-building first baseman.

Yes, Wil Myers is expected to move back to the outfield to accommodate everything, but...the San Diego Padres, who were building but not extensively, are a wild-card pick to nab Eric Hosmer, who has an ASG nod, a World Series ring, and some big-time major league credentials under his belt. Putting Hosmer in the lineup gives them a power core of Hosmer, Myers, Manuel Margot and Chase Headley, which isn't great, but it's definitely a start for a team that wants to chase the remaining four teams for a playoff berth.

Only thing is I don't think the contract's supposed to benefit the Padres in 2018. Having Hosmer there is supposed to cement things, so that this team can BUILD to a playoff squad. Sad to say, but the Padres are dead last on the totem pole this year, and will only grow as the Rockies fall apart, the Dodgers' core ages, the Giants finally decide to give up Buster Posey, and the Diamondbacks win a few more playoff matches. Signing Hosmer is gonna give them some nice stuff this year, but nothing that will move mountains, which will upset some Padres fans.

Still, it's a pretty damn big move, and it makes sure that everybody in the NL West has a stake in what's surely gonna be a bloodthirsty battle for relevancy in 2018.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nostalgic Box Break: 2003 Upper Deck Series 1 (Part Two)

The more generic, been-there Topps products I see, the more I want to go back to the days when Upper Deck wasn't afraid to take risks. And here we are, back in 2003, sifting through colorful, inspired, well-designed cards, back when card products actually mattered.

Today, the last 12 packs of this retail box of 2003 UD. I teased a major hit in this part of the box, and i aim to deliver.

 Pack 13-
Steroid Abusers: 3/8
Borderline Hall of Famers: 1/8
 I always loved the static photos we'd get from the Tigers' Spring Training field. So many grassy backgrounds, so many fun shots. This one, of Da Meat Hook, is no exception.

 Gagne and Green were coming off of fantastic 2002s, and were about to fall off the face of the earth. Carlos Lee was about to get a little leaving the White Sox a year later.

 Jason Giambi played first base for the Yankees from 2002 until 2008. In that interim, they didn't win any championships. Coincidence? I think not.

 And, a rare shot of Larry Walker on the pasepaths, looking pretty cool, too.

 Pack 14-
Future Hall of Famers: 1/8
 Just look at this photography for a moment. The attention to detail, the zooming in, the awesome 2002-era D-Backs uniforms. Just a lot to like.

 Albert was about to begin his third season, which is odd considering what he's become in Anaheim. Huff was a year or so away from becoming a requisite aging outfielder on a number of squads.

 Pack 15-
Cardinals: 3/8
 Just a really nice 'dust-clearing' shot of Mark Kotsay, a guy who was essentially on a different team every year for a better part of the 2000s.

 A pair of fringe players- Phillies starter and eventual bearded reliever Brett Myers, and impressive St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen.

 Pack 16-
Former Managers: 1/8
 I just really like this card, too. So much really nice emphasis on the catcher, and a very 'moment-in-time' type shot as well.

 Another Gagne. It was 2003, I'll give them a break.

 Oh yeah, and Robin Ventura played for my team for a bit at the end. He was far from 1999-awesome-Mets-infield era Ventura, but he was still a solid third baseman until we'd get A-Rod.

 Pack 17-
2000s Star Infielders: 2/8

 Eric Chavez in a fantastic 1970s-era throwback, which is refreshing as hell.
Also, Omar Vizquel holding court in Cleveland, rocking one of the early-phase hat insignias that marked the Indians' first attempt at getting away from Chief Wahoo. It didn't work.

 Pack 18-
Hall of Famers: 1/8
 RICKEY HENDERSON, IN A BOSTON UNIFORM. I love so many of Rickey's late-career stints, so it's always nice to land cards of him in unfamiliar uniforms. This one's no exception.
Also, Livan Hernandez, in his post-WS-win era of play.

 Aw god, the angle on this one. Absolutely wonderful, even if Reggie Taylor didn't last in Cincinnati.

 Pack 19-
Hall of Famers: 1/8
Future Hall of Famers: 1/8

 In 2002, Michael Young was still 'Mike', and he was still a second-baseman, waiting for Kinsler, Hamilton and Andrus to come along and jump-start the back-to-back AL Champion rosters.
Also, another Vladdie card, which I can never say no to.

 Our Big League Breakdown insert is of Todd Helton, then just cementing his reign in Colorado. I wonder how much fun the sportswriters are gonna have with his numbers when he's up for Hall of Fame induction.

 Pack 20-
Guys I adore collecting: 2/8
Guys Who Played for one of my teams for exactly one year: 2/8
 Raul Mondesi was a Yankee, and actually didn't do too badly. This was in the brief portion of the 2000s where we were still finding our identity, so while he wasn't a bad choice for us, he didn't last long for a reason.
 AJ Burnett looks really cool on this card, as do the shadows. Meanwhile, Fred McGriff is still pounding it out in Chicago, in his penultimate year in the bigs.

 Another CHASE FOR 755 insert, this one depicting Shawn Green, who wouldn't really get close.
And a really cool dugout shot of a very cold Bobby Abreu.

There was one more card in that pack, by the way...

 ...yes, it's a white patch...

...but it's a white patch of TOM GLAVINE. In all his Braves glory. I don't care what color it is, I'm taking it, and I'm not complaining. It's not often to pull a relic of a Hall of Famer, especially one like Tom Glavine.

Probably one of the better pulls of these Nostalgic Box Breaks. I'm very impressed with this one.

 Pack 21-
2012 Postseason Heroes: 2/8

 Rafael Furcal in action, well-depicted.
And, of course, a card of Raul Ibanez during his brief time in Kansas City.

 Pack 22-
Hall of Famers: 2/8
Current Managers: 1/8

 SUCH GOOD STUFF. The Roberts card is pretty great, even if he'll probably be better remembered for his managing in that uniform.
The Pedro card is great because of the shadows, and the intensity of this particular throw. And the Hudson is great because of how we've zoomed just far back enough.

 And a cool, back-side shot of Trevor Hoffman, in the midst of his HOF career in San Diego.

 Pack 23-
Legendary Fringe Players: 2/8
World Series Heroes: 1/8
 Eric Karros was, in fact, still playing in 2003, and he'd be traded to the Cubs very shortly after this pretty cool BP shot.
Meanwhile, Mike Lieberthal would be a steady backstop for a few more years in Philly, before the arrival of one Carlos Ruiz.

 A pseudo-rookie of John Lackey, which is nice, despite the uninspired background/pose.

 And a card of Rafael Palmeiro. Does he still want to come back to the bigs, or has he gotten the message?

 Pack 24-
HOFers: 1/8
And we end on a shot of Roberto Alomar, past his prime with the Mets, two years until retirement. Still looks pretty great, though.

As does 2003 UD. Despite one or two issues, this was a well-collated box that had a lot of star cards and great photos, and two hits (one of them being fantastic). Glad I ripped this one.

I think I do have one more Nostalgic Box Break in the pipeline, and it's one that goes back to my roots as a box-breaker on this blog.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nostalgic Box Break: 2003 Upper Deck Series 1 (Part 1)

A few years ago, I broke a box of 2002 Upper Deck, with a smiling, pinstriped Jason Giambi on the cover, and showed you the highlights of a product still skirting on cool photography and a slightly bulky design. They were Upper Deck still in their prime, still manufacturing cool when Topps had a monopoly on basic.

2003 Upper Deck is honestly very similar to the 2002 release, just with a more 'cool for the times' design. Still the same emphasis on collectability, and the same genuine nature of their inserts. The kind of release I could use about now.

This box had 24 packs, 8 cards per, so we'll do 12 today, and 12 another day. That simple.

 Pack 1-
Future Hall of Famers: 2/8
Old Mariners: 2/8
Guys Named Corky: 1/8
 EDGAR. Already we get a fun, very UD candid shot from pregame, for the DH extraordinaire, just a year away from retirement.


I do think it's pretty cool that I landed two of the greatest DHs of all time in the same pack. Plus, what's more, a rare Twin Papi.

 Pack 2-
Guys I collected for some reason: 2/8
Disappointing Hits: 1/8

 My base highlight was a standard pitching shot of Ben Sheets. Also, the base design for this product is very simple. It's getting the 'ESPN graphics' thing done better than 2017T would. a monstrosity.

This is an All Star swatches game-used jersey card of Aaron Sele, and that is definitely an ANGELS swatch of the big man. However, and this is a big however, not only did Aaron Sele not make the All Star Game in 2002, he never even made one with the Angels. This is a warm-up jacket from the 2000 ASG, where he pitched for the Mariners.

Now that is all well and good, and it works as a Mariners release for Sele...but it would have worked better a year after the 2000 ASG, rather than...three. Play with what's current, UD, and do an Angels picture AND swatch- don't go for the classics. It's like if Topps came out with a card now of Jeff Samarzija's ASG uniform with the A's. It doesn't make sense.

And on top of ALL THAT...I don't particularly like the fact that I pulled a game-used card of Aaron Sele. I bet you thought I'd START with that, right.
 Pack 3-
Steroid Abusers: 2/8
HOFers: 1/8
 I love this card. Al Leiter and his secret weapon, the pitching machine. I bet he got fined for using that in a game.

 A very simple, very cool card of Reds hero Sean Casey.

 Two guys I love to collect- Astros icon and hitting legend Craig Biggio, and a guy who made sure Albert Pujols didn't have to hit all those home runs by himself, Jim Edmonds.

 Pack 4-
Eventual 2-time WS heroes: 1/8
HOFers: 1/8

 Rondell White was on the Yankees? ...alright, then.

 Plus, a sort-of rookie of Jake Peavy, pre-Cy Young award.

 A BIG LEAGUE BREAKDOWN, which is a pretty cool insert set, of Chipper Jones, the guy that got the most HOF votes this year, and deservingly so.

 Pack 5-
Team Heroes: 4/8
HOFers: 1/8
Borderline HOFers: 3/8
 Two guys that were still a big deal in 2003- Troy Glaus, who just helped his team win their first-ever World Series, and Mark Grace, a year from retirement after a fantastic career of killing the NL Central teams that weren't based in Illinois.

 Wells was just getting to the good stuff, while Mike Mussina was just powering through the end of the bulk of his best years.

 Torii Hunter was the Twins' standout star at the time, as they were just building the dynasty that'd get them back to stardom. Vladimir Guerrero, meanwhile, was a year away from joining the Angels and helping them get back to the playoffs.

 Pack 6-
Future HOFers: 1/8
 2003, a year where Luis Castillo could wind up on a checklist.

 Such a great card. Derek Jeter, in the height of Jetermania, in the dugout, basking in the good stuff. Very, very cool stuff, UD.

 Pack 7-
Weird Stuff on Cards: 2/8
 1. WHOA THOSE MARLINS UNIFORMS. Those are cool! It's odd seeing the Marlins wear orange before the rebranding. Were those from a tribute-day, like a 'let's celebrate hispanic or Cuban teams' day?
Also, Aaron Boone has a lot of bats. Just like in 2018. Awww yeah.

 Pack 8-
Multi-fingers pitchers: 1/8
Very 2003 Stars: 2/8

 NOMAAAAAH. A year before he'd land in Chicago as the Sox won it all.
Marco Scutaro rookie, before he'd help the Giants win it all.

 Annnnd speaking of the 2012 Giants, here's Barry Zito on the other side of the bay, throwing fire in one of the most impressive rotations in the game.

 Pack 9-
Magglios: 2/8
2003 WS winners: 1/8
 Derrek Lee, pre-Yankee killing.

 Magglio Ordonez was so big in 2003 that he got two cards in this pack, and yeah, judging by how hard he was hitting those days, it makes sense.

 Pack 10-
Borderline HOFers: 2/8
Guys Named After Informational Websites: 1/8
 A very cool catching shot of a guy named Wiki.

 Two guys who'd be playing for the Yankees in 2005. Sheff would be on a steroid-addled high, while Tino would round out his career with the bombers. Both were playing for NL squads in 2003 though.

 Pack 11-
Astros heroes: 2/8
2000s Big Bats: 4/8
 I miss the little stars next to the hat. Vicente is really, REALLY  pissed about something. Possibly playing for the Phillies.

 Sweeney was pretty big in this era, as in KC that year the only grounds for hero status were 'hit lots of home runs and smile a lot'.
Oswalt was throwing heat, but you knew that.

 Lance Berkman gets the BIG LEAGUE BREAKDOWN insert, and not a bad subject for it in 2003, either.

 Pack 12-
Steroid Abusers: 1/8
Guys I Love Collecting: 1/8
 This is THE CHASE FOR 755, plotting guys that could take Aaron's record. I swear to god if Barry Bonds wasn't in this friggin' set...

We end on Ultimate Evil (Roger Clemens) and A Force of Unbelievable Good (Juan Pierre). That's all I need.

A fun rip so far, which continues in the next 12 packs, where (GASP) an actual GOOD HIT is found???