22 March 2021

In Defense of the Rookie Card

Hey there. How've you been? I mean really - how have you been?

It times like these I feel like I have to ask, but I ask beyond pleasantries, I am expressing a genuine interest. After thirty years of trying to avoid people and conversations and close relationships and poorly lit parties I've softened in my days, and in my most recent count of near-isolation, that tallies about 373 days, I've grown at times apathetic but also more compassionate than ever I ever expected and can hold eye contact longer than before and can now take a breath, think of something other than my own comfort and are you?

Take a free moment for self-reflection. Assess. It's unhealthy keeping your head down and your face covered and your jaw clenched for so long. Breathe (safely). Take a clean breath. Stare at the sunset, any bold celestial object or a bird in the yard or your dog's muzzle and relax.

Welcome back, Plain Gray Swatch.

This blog was most active in the days from 2011-2015. Those days were different than whatever we find ourselves in now, certainly much simpler and cheaper, there was a lot more toilet paper available and for the most part I think we all slept a lot easier at night. In our little world, only semi-corrupted with exclusive licenses and on the precipice of a motley of color-coded parallels and disorganized card isles, it was simply an easier time than today. There were no shortages of the paper products we adore, no lines or knife fights to flip unlicensed memorabilia on the online auction site. Things were easy, indeed, but were they better? And in our ongoing theme of self-reflection, were they necessary?

I'm inclined to say no, at least for me 5-8 years ago. A quiet young 'professional' still able-bodied enough to play three baseball games every weekend, a new apartment in a new/old city and a new dog and a tree to sit under and drink the first craft beer I could ever afford, no it was all so unnecessary and luxurious and simple.

It doesn't feel like that anymore. At times the constant refreshing online retail outlets or ebay saved searches or waiting on PayPal payments or repurposing bubble mailers can feel like a chore or even worse -  a second job. All just to sustain, sustain, sustain. For many it's become a job. The past year has forced many out of work, into the relative danger of the public to buy children's play things and flip them online for a 5% profit an unspeakable risk, riding this wave with will eventually crash and disperse across the beach of human interest, like every other wave that came before it and every one that will follow.

Yet, through this ongoing slog of the current human condition, there's something else, an additional appreciation of the way things used to be, the reason many of us ended up in this space in the beginning. The chase. The rookies.   

This isn't my card. As a Bowman Prospects 1st Bowman 1st Edition Firsty Firsty Lasty Lasty a lowly civil servant like myself cannot possess such a piece of cardboard. This would first require a reduction in amount of groceries. Three less tanks of gas for my truck. Five legs from selected pairs of jeans, which seem impractical enough as it is. 

Or I can just wait it out a few days, weeks, months - however long the current fad lasts. 

Austin Martin was The Toronto Blue Jays' first overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, or what symbolized it, this past June. Many expected AM to go 1-2 after He of the Arizona Sun Devil Power, Spencer Torkelson, who went to the Tigers. But Martin slipped, with some concerns for his defense or whatever nonsense the Orioles and others managed to cough up in defending their own picks, and my favorite college player to watch ended up on my favorite professional team and that just floats right by me. 

Since June I've tracked down Austin Martin cards here and there, mostly through Panini Prizm Draft and Leaf Metal Draft, the first a sign of just how much Panini could do - with or without the license - and the later a crime against nature but appreciated nonetheless. Bowman Draft proceeded without the young Floridian in late 2020, but word broke recently that he'll make his licensed debut in 2021 Bowman "First Edition" - which is, I don't know...extra first, or some other nonsense.

I've been looking forward to this one for many months and to be frank, I don't care for it. 

The card is busier than my Wednesday meeting schedule. Despite this it's overwhelmingly colorless and devoid of heart, typographically mediocre and thoughtlessly photoshopped. It feels like a malfunctioning local news app set on bright mode. Like the endless concrete of an abandoned Rust Belt downtown. It just sold for $125.

11 March 2018

bowman break spoils from the iron lion

Earlier this week Sam over at The Iron Lion Breakers hosted a 2016 Bowman Draft, Bowman's Best and Topps High Tek box break. My randomly assigned pair of teams were the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics. Definitely no Acuna-typed prospects abound with those teams, but I was hopeful for a colored refractor from Chrome and some AJ Puk or Amed Roasario cards.

We'll start with Bowman's Best, as there were just a few from that break to fall to my teams.

Yes, this will be a colorful post.

Conforto has a sneaky good year in 2017, and he's generating some legitimate fantasy buzz. These inserts, though, seem unnecessary.

IN typical Bowman's Best style, there's some dual-player cards.

Good try, BB, but aside from both being lefities, Matz and Lester aren't terribly similar.

That was it for the Bowman's Best, which was pretty disappointing for my Mets/A's draw. On to the High Tek:

Hopefully you're all familiar with the gaudy Tek designs, varying background patters and so on. I did some damage in terms of card count here, hauling in a Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cepedes and this David Wright:

From the backside. These acetate/plastic cards have the see-through element, which forces Topps to get, uh, creative with the text.

Okay, on to something less gaudy, and finally some Athletics:

There's the Puk I was hoping for, modeling the front of a decent-enough looking Bowman set. Not one I would chase, but certainly better-looking than it's Topps counterpart.

And there's Rosario. The backside of 2016 Bowman was certainly a treat to look at.

Since the Bowman Draft box was a jumbo, I think most of the break entrants wound up with refractors. Most of mine were uninteresting, like this Grant Holmes, but I will never turn down a refractor.

Of course, it's Bowman, so all of the Draft inserts are chromed up and refracting light as well. Here's ex-Blue Jays Great Franklin Barreto modeling the Fantasy Impact insert. Blue Jays got a decent 3B for him, I think.

Nolan Ryan as a pup on this MLB Draft History insert, which is the perfect way to mix legends and retired players into modern sets, rather than stuffing a 2018 Donruss Checklist with Mickey Mantle cards.

From old to young, as Bowman does so well. These horizontal cards depict a player's rise in draft selection, as Dalton Jeffries went from 1162nd in 2013 to 37th in 2016. Go to college, kids.

Finally, though I was shut out on relics (yawn) or autographs (duds), I managed to wind up with the rarest card in the group break.

While both orange and gold, this is an orange refractor of Mets 1B prospect Pete Alonso, a second-round pick in 2016, numbered just 12/25. 

So, there's that. I hope you enjoyed this Blue Jays-free post. 

28 February 2018

february nue jays, leafs...and a good reason for a lack of posts

February was a light month for trading cards in this household. With just Topps flagship available in stores (for baseball products), there was no need to visit the stores and rip cards. With only Heritage out now in addition, the lack of urgency to rip has plateaued.

This is just the third post here this month. There's a good reason for that, but I'll get into it at the end.

With the Maple Leafs playing quite well this month, playing nine games without a regulation time loss, I decided to look out for an auto of one of the team's young stars, Kasperi Kapanen.

Turns out it wasn't too difficult:

This nice little gold auto from Fleer Showcase (the Fleer name was purchased by Upper Deck recently) hardly set me back much, which is surprising considering the love that the hobby gives the Maple Leafs. I also added an O-Pee-Chee auto on COMC from Kapanen, but we'll see that later on when it is finally in hand.

But that was it for Maple Leafs. That craving was easy to quell.

So on to some Blue Jays, and we'll start with an oldie but goodie:

This would have been a painful purchase back in 2008 when it first came out, but JPA is now retired and his card values have plummeted. This is great for me, as this orange refractor auto (/25!) was have for under $10. A complete steal.

The following cardboard, which was almost offensively thick and must be stored in a snapcase, was even less and also numbered under 100 at /99.

There's no reason that this needs to be the thickness of 15 cards by itself, but it is.

A new Lourdes Gurriel came in this month as well, this one being a monochrome refractor from 2017 Bowman's Best. It's one of the prettier autos I have.

Just today, another Bowman's Best auto came, this one for the minimum bid of $0.99:

Warmoth was Toronto's No. 1 draft pick in 2017, so anytime I can grab an auto of his for under $10, I am very pleased. This one is limited to /250.

With the writing on the wall this spring about the Blue Jays not extending Josh Donaldson's contract any time soon, I decided to cast away my previous apprehension for chasing his cards, and decided to add some for memories alone.

Somehow, I ended up with a pair of patches. The first coming from the stunning Topps Definitive Collection from a Mother's Day jersey (in theory):

And the second in a less pleasing to the eye design, but with an incredible patch featuring the Maple Leaf from the Blue Jays logo:

...and limited to just /10.

Now. On to the reason for the quiet here of late.

Around the turn of 2018, my fellow writers at Jays From the Couch decided to take on a little endeavor. We were going to write a book. And we did!

It took many late nights and headaches and an incredible amount of editing, fact-checking and sore typing muscles, but we did it. We finished about a week ago, and are pleased to announce that it will be released through Amazon TOMORROW!

If interested, you can purchase a copy here for less than the price of those Donaldson patches. What you see above it the paperback, available from The digital ebook is available from both and

Hopefully, this means more time to write here, but we'll see how that goes. 

16 February 2018

a career in the stadium club: Jim Thome

In August, I will once again be making the pilgrimage to Cooperstown, NY for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend. It's always a joy to see the motley of jerseys in the closed streets in the small Otsego Lake town, and every year, one of MLB's many cities will be well-represented.

Last year, it was Houston, Texas and Montreal, Quebec - the latter of which is no longer an MLB city.

I'm assuming we'll see plenty of Québécois again this season with the induction of the ultra-talented Vladimir Guerrero Jr. But also to be extremely well-represented should be Atlanta (for Chipper Jones) and a good mix of Philadelphians and Clevelanders.

While I plan to look at all of their lives through baseball cards in the coming months, I'll start with Big Jim Thome. Long known as one of the nicest guys in baseball, and worthy of enshrinement on that alone - Jim Thome also did one thing incredibly well:

Mash taters.

Thome was a fast riser in the Cleveland farm system, spending just four seasons down there, hitting just 51 HR between Rookie Ball and AAA, before earning a full-time job in the strike-shortened 1994 season.


Believe it or not, scouts thought early on that Thome was undersized - just 175 lbs. when he was drafted as a shortstop out of high school.

While Stadium Club may have peaked as a base set in 1992, Jim Thome sure didn't.


But seeing as he made it into the set in both 1992 and 1993, Topps probably knew he would be a mainstay for years to come. It's still strange to look back on his early career and see him A) fielding on the left side of the diamond as opposed to the right and B) fielding at all.

Seriously, Topps, there's taters to be mashed.


Still thin. Still playing a position other than 1B.

The card? Still one of TSC's top set designs, in all of its mid-1990's label maker glory.


The Cleveland uniforms really took off in 1995, as did Thome's career. He would go on to mash 25 HR in 1995 and drive in 73, slashing .314/.438/.558!

Sadly, Cleveland came up short to the Atlanta Barves superpitchers in the 1995 World Series.


TSC '96 is an underappreciated set. Topps stuck with the foil, but got a little bit more ambitious than in previous years.

Thirty-eight more taters found themselves mashed.


Let's just forget about '97 TSC.

Goddamn, though, look at those forearms.


Honestly, I don't remember 1998 TSC, but at least Thome has found his way to 1B at this point. He's also starting to thicken, growing plump off that 1997 World Series cut, perhaps, despite losing in seven games to the Florida Marlins in one of my favorite childhood World Series matchups.


Am I alone in my love of 1999 TSC? That's about as classy as you can make holofoil on the front of a card, and the semi-transparent logos in the top left corner were spectacular and surprisingly never matched by another copycat product.


By 2000, there were whispers of a future Hall of Famer in Jim Thome. He didn't slow down, either, blasting  37, 49 and 52 HRs from 2000-2003, his final years in Cleveland before his 2011 homecoming at age 40.




And another year I don't remember, 2002. Despite that, TSC found a real gem here with the alternate home uniform and pickoff play at first.


Now, you might be thinking: "Jim Thome played well after the 2003 season, in fact, he had 231 home runs after that season!"

And you would be right, but there's a very good reason this post stops at 2003.

Because Topps Stadium Club did, and that's a damn shame. I also didn't think this post out as much as I had hoped, and with the recent re-vamp of Stadium Club, I must have assumed there were some more to post. But there isn't. Forgive me.

And Jim, if you see this: come visit our campsite in Cooperstown in August. You can mash the ceremonial Taters.

06 February 2018

a trade! with million cubs project

Usually, I don't do many trade posts. Often, it's because I lack the energy to physically scan, crop and post the images. Other times, it's because ya'll send so many great cards, it's often overwhelming fot his (very) part-time blog.

But when another blogger post their side, I'll often reciprocate. And that's why we're here right now. A few weeks back I started corresponding with A Million Cubs Project. Eager to downsize my collection***, I decided to propose sending Beau a buttload of Cubs that I had no use for, hoping someone might enjoy my excess Sammy Sosa cards. I mean, I sure don't. I didn't intend to get so much in return, but when Beau asked, I answered: "some Blue Jays and (why the hell not) some Expos."

So I guess I am an Expos collector now, as Beau dropped some goodies.

But first, the Blue Jays.

The oldest card in the box was this Damaso Garcia. I had a friend names Damaso in elementary school for about a year before he moved away.

I have no idea what happened to him.

I really like 1981 Donruss. Especially this incredibly mis-cut Garcia. '81 is colorful and simple. These are good things.

Also good is EVERY KELLY GRUBER CARD EVER. Even 1991 Fleer yellowness.

If the 1991 Fleer is too much for you, set your eyes on the gaudiest of all Satdium Club sets, 1997:

I secretly collect Shawn Green, mostly because I'm sad he left Toronto so early for Los Angeles. I should probably be over it by now, but hell, look at that swing.

And look at this 1993 Leaf Studio of Blue Jays legend and World Series MVP Pat Borders. There are few sets as perfect as this one.

Spectrum, from Upper Deck in (inexplicably) multiple years, is not:

But I figured I had to show one shiny card from the Evil Black Blue Jays period. He also happens to be the Greatest Blue Jay of All Time (G-BOAT.) More on him on another day.

I'm not quite ready for that post, yet.

I am, however, ready to start welcoming more Expos into my collection. Beau did a great job facilitating that, including soon to be Hall of Famer, Larry Walker:

Upper Deck ruled the trading card world in the 1990s, and it did so with cards like the Walker's base card above. It's a masterpiece. They also took full advantage of subsets, like the Home Field Advantage card as well.

The trade also included this 1992 Donruss, depicting Walker in his short-term home at first base, getting those powder blues all dirty:

From Walker we move to another beastly Canadian, the pride of New Brunswick, Matt Stairs:

Stairs looks like he's also been rolling around in the dirt. A true ballplayer with light tower power, and inspiration for one of the greatest baseball-player themed shirts in existence:

Of course, we cannot talk Montreal Expos without the greatest to ever wear those powder blues, Rock Raines. There were a few Raines cards in the box, but the following stood out the most.

This is a 1990 Starline was a first for me. Also, I have never, ever seen these. So that's neat.

O-Pee-Chee is still active in Upper Deck hockey's offerings, and they're doing a mighty good job with those set nowadays. That's in direct contrast to the 1980s, when it was mostly a retread of Topps Flagship, like in 1987.

Regardless, any Raines cardboard is fantastic, and when you wood-panel the man, it's even better.

Back to Upper Deck. Part of the reason they dominated the 1990s was great photography on base cards with a simple, yet timeless design.

Both of those characteristics are on display here in this Delino DeShields card. There were three DeShields ones that stuck out, with the highlight being this checklist from the same set:

And illustrated by Vernon Wells, Sr.

Man, I should have actively collected DeShields in the early 1990s. He has some great cards.

We'll end on my favorite set of all time, 1993 Leaf. Despite being a beautiful set on the front, 1993 Leaf has the distinction of being "that set you put in a binder backwards" due to the stunning card backs which feature brilliant photos of the city skylines. Today, we've got John Vander Wal:

Just perfect.

Thanks for the Canadjian cardboard, Beau. And for those of you reading who haven't made it to his website yet, check it out. And be sure to send him your Sammy Sosa cards, even if they're not Cubs. Whoops. 

26 January 2018

january nue jays (and a...cub?)

I went a little overboard in January.

Overboard might be a bit of an overstatement. But I did manage to rough up some of my current Blue Jays collections, and even managed to add one (pictured above) of a Blue Jay that use to be a Chicago Cubs. And an Oakland Athletic Elephant.

In case you haven't figured out who it is yet:

It's Josh Donaldson! Donaldson was originally drafted by the Cubs in 2007, and was traded to Oakland in that blockbuster Matt Murton/Rich Harden deal. He was then traded to the Blue Jays on Black Friday, 2014.

Oh, and then he won an MVP award.

Donaldson was also part of a rather large purchase I made from The Dimwit, who's doing some fun box breaks over at the Iron Lion. Join in on the fun.

In the lot there was this woody Dosh:

Without logos, Panini can really waste some space on a card. I didn't really aim to add these Donaldsons this month, they just happened to cross my path. Further down, you'll see what brought me to the lot.

I did, however, intend to add some new Marcus Stroman, but was limited in what I found that really interested me. And the first wasn't a Blue Jays card at all.

I'm coming around to Topps Now, but have little interest in using the website to acquire them. This is the only one I have so far, but there's one commemorating Stroman's first MLB HR this summer in Atlanta that I'd love to find at a reasonable price.

But this one was, and it came with his friend Josh. I won a decent relic lot, mostly as trade bait, that happened to have both of these and about four more. Any Eric Hosmer and Jose Abreu collectors out there?

Back to the Dimwit lot, and my apologies for bouncing around so much in this one.

My second Bautista auto and first multi/jersey relic. Someone (a saint, probably) sent me a Bowman's Best bat card of him wayyy back in the day, while he was still a Pirate. While never a stronghold of my collection, my Jose Bautista cards are actually pretty solid.

Anyways, on to what brought me to the Dimwit lot, before I wrap up the Blue Jays vets.

Roberto Alomar:

Diamond Kings was solid this year, but again, plenty of wasted space.

For being on some gaudy foil board, these are actually quite nice and my first foray into the Panini HOF cards. With the zoomed in photos, there's at least some salvaging of the excess space, though.

There, you go! Bringing back Donruss Elite was a big win for me. I just wish it was serial numbered to a super-low /999 copies, though.

Anyways. On to the big one:

That, amigos, is my first Roberto Alomar autograph. On-card and everything. It's not the best version of his auto and there's no Blue Jays logo to be found, but this is surely a star in my collection right now.

From old to new, Toronto's current second baseman also made an appearance as well:

This one is from 2015 Onyx Platinum (that doesn't make any sense.) Onyx made some nice-looking cards, without MLB or MLBPA licenses it seems, but the stock is flimsy and they seem to have disappeared.

Baby Jays

Kevin Smith was Toronto's 4th rounder (5th pick) in 2017 and had a really great start with rookie-level Bluefield, hitting 13 HR, batting .268 with a .874 OPS in 54 games.

Smith was the second SS Toronto drafted this season, just after this guy:

I'm going hard after Logan Warmoth cards, and this Panini Elite Extra Edition came pretty cheaply considering it's limited to /75.  It's die-cut, but...hardly. EEE shows you what Panini can do with licensing, and the verdict is that it's quite good.

This one came deceptively cheap as well, around $5. In comparison, his Bowman Draft green refractor often goes $40+ for a card that's also limited to /99.

I also managed to spend $5 in one shot on these Lourdes Gurriel, Jr cards:

Two from 2016 Bowman...

And an orange refractor from 2017 Platinum, which is rather ghastly to be honest.

And this autograph from 2017 Bowman's Best only set me back about $3-4.

The true steal came in the form of Nate Pearson, though, with this 2017 Leaf Valiant Black limited to just /5.

That is, unless your into SIC MOSH MOJO HITZ though:

You've been here long enough, so here's a patch from Panini Elite Extra Edition that could choke a horse. This one is also limited to five copies, and features a Blue Jay face. Apparently you can't print the logos on the card but you can smash part of one into a small window. Sure, why not?