Team Sets Ahoy!

The checklist gods have been exceptionally merciful this year. Red Sox cards are actually down to somewhat normal levels. A short print here, a hard to find auto there, but for the most part team sets were absolutely the way to go. Since that’s the bulk of my collecting, I suppose I should get around to talking about them at some point. It’s also nearly the end of the year, which means just about everything has already been released, so it’s a good time to go back a month or so and look at some team set picks ups from the Fall and Winter.

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Fall Malaise

I fully realized I hadn’t posted in about 3 weeks, and I really wasn’t that concerned. Late fall and early winter are kind of down seasons for me, at least historically. I’ve trimmed back my video game binging to merely a game or two, baseball cards have ended most production runs for the year, the holidays happen whether we want them to or not, and work generally grinds to a halt. That would be the perfect time for reflection and insight into the year thus far, but the lack of motivation usually takes it’s toll.

I’m also unsatisfied with my own web projects in general (don’t worry, it happens every year). About now I start noticing how dated my designs looks, I contemplate redesigning it, and it’s pretty much a 50/50 that I actually get around to it. This year in particular my general design is bothering me. It’s bland. It’s lacking any visual interest, probably because it was intended to emphasize text and fontography, which I then ignored. It’s also minimalistic, which of course was the trend at the time I rolled it out. That’s the problem with trends, they die. Currently, “massive fonts” and “full screen images” are in. Don’t worry, not going in that direction.

Oh, and I also smoked a turkey for Thanksgiving. How’s that for a random segueway?

I think I had mentioned my love for the barbeque arts in passing on previous posts. It’s gotten slightly out of hand. I’m smoking whole briskets and pork shoulders now. My pulled pork is actually quite good. I’m catering a small party next weekend. Go figure.

The turkey was actually pretty easy. Quick Simon & Garfunkel rub (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, get it?) inside and out, and some butter injected into the breasts. Smoked at 325° for 2 ½ hours with apple wood. Easy as pie. Nice and golden and crispy on the skin, smoked and juicy on the inside. Completely blew our previous fried turkeys out of the water.

turkey

turkey2

 

While the turkey was awesome, the highlight of the day was my kiddo finding snails in the backyard. She’s completely fearless, and just all around awesome. Not that a snail would hurt anyone, but most girls would run away screaming. I’m a proud daddy.

snail

After dinner I settled in for some traditional Call of Duty. I’m actually pleased with this years offering. It’s clear what the extra year of production time did for it’s development. I don’t think you’d get anyone is disagree that Advantaced Warfare is far more polished that the previous few years. It’s good to get that fix of “twitch” shooter back. I had been missing it for quite a while. It’s like wearing that old comfortable hoodie, the one you just dug out of the closet because the weather is finally cold enough to wear it. Turkey, apple pie, and headshots, what could be better?

There have been some baseball cards purchased over the past few weeks. Most of them are going towards a rainbow that I’m nearly finished with. I’ll tease it with the best of the bunch, and you can clearly see why. Puns!

clear

Yeah, that’s pretty sweet.

There’s not really that much else going on. I’d post more cards if I actually cared about any of the sets released in the last couple weeks. What I should do is round everything up and make some end of the year checklists for things I’m missing. There we go, I just gave myself a to-do list. That might actually get done. The website redesign, meh, 50/50.

Bowman Chrome

I previously mentioned my dislike of Topps Chrome, and that buying the misfortune of others in large lots was pretty much my bag. The same could be said for Bowman Chrome, although I have less of an issue with Bowman Chrome due to it’s slight differences. While Topps Chrome simply reuses the checklist and the photos from Flagship, Bowman at least changes it up a little. Sometimes different photos, a different group of prospects, etc. I had seen basic team sets on ebay for anywhere between $6 and $15, but I felt like I could do better. I wanted that “master set” but didn’t want to break the bank. Luckily, I found two sellers looking to offload a case’s worth for next to nothing. The first lot was 30 cards for $5 and the second was 26 cards for $4. I now have the basic team set twice over (or one for the team binder, one for the player binder) and (I think) all but one of the inserts, including a good handful of parallels. Let’s see what $9 can buy…

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August Pickups

I have such a weird pile of stuff from this summer that I never bothered to post about. It’s sort of all over the place. There wasn’t any rhym or reason to it. It was mostly “I’m bored with current sets, what can I pick up for cheap?” Great motivation right?

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The Brockets Red Glare

The insanity that is the Brock Holt collection continues on. There’s just four additions, but they are considerable ones. Let’s start out with a little trip back in time, to the Minor Leagues.

Brock_Holt_Minors

These two (base card and insert All-Star card) are from 2010 Pro Debut. There are only a few Holt cards from the minors are they are surprisingly hard to find. There are a couple parallels from 2009 Donruss EE still to find and a “2009 State College Spikes” card, but these are the two major cards to check off my list.

2014_Panini_Prizm_Brock_Holt_RC_Orange_12-60

Next up, something I had only seen on ebay twice (and missed it both times), an Orange Diecut parallel from Panini Prism. This beauty is 12/60 and a big missing piece from my Panini page. That’s not all. It gets better…

2014_Panini_Prizm_Brock_Holt_RC_YellowGold_06-10_web

Boom. Six out of ten. A rare Gold Parallel from the same set. This was the first and only I had ever seen, and I couldn’t throw money at it fast enough. It actually didn’t end up being that much in the end, and I was greatful my bid stuck. That is the 9th card for Mr. Holt that I had that’s numbered to 10 or less. I think it’s safe to say I have a fairly extensive collection at this point. I know I own 3/10 of the worlds copies from Tier 1, and 2/5 of the world’s supply of Bowman cracked ice. Does that make me a super collector?

Xandertastic

I decided to go ahead and clear a spot in my player binders for Xander Bogaerts. He’s not going anywhere, the Sox are clearly invested in him and since moving back to SS he’s been more confident and it’s translated into his play. Xander_Lot

I think, with the exception of the 2013 Pro Debut and the Archives cards, that I actually had all these, but I like to maintain the team sets as they are and my player collections are strictly duplicates, which means I needed another copy of most of these. The whole collection came together and included multiples of each card. I think there were 20 or so cards all together. All together they make a nice group/binder page. The 2013 Pro Debut and the Ginter are probably my favorites, but the photo they used for the GQ card is equally awesome.

Chrome Issues

Chrome doesn’t have issues, well, actually that’s a lie (it has plenty), but it’s more of a “me problem”. I don’t actually like Chrome. I know, that’s nearly heresy. I keep buying them and I don’t really know why. It’s like buying a car, keeping it nice and shiny, and never driving it. There’s just no point. I don’t “get” Chrome. It’s the SAME SET as flagship, only smaller. It hardly has any exclusives except usually that one rookie card everyone wants and it over-printed anyway. The auto checklist is slightly different and the inserts are somehow more insane. The only real reason to like Chrome are the parallels. If you like chasing the rainbow, Chrome is your crack. I guess that’s part of the appeal and even a little bit why I buy some, but it’s a terrible affliction to have. There’s really no end once you start chasing parallels.

I start simple, with just a team set…

2014_TChrome_Set_01

2014_TChrome_Set_02

And this is where the anger starts to build. The Red Sox released Sizemore on June 18th. There are other people, on the roster, as active players, who had a card in Series 1 or Series 2, who could have been in Chrome instead. Isn’t Chrome’s shortened checklist supposed to be top/popular players anyway? You’re going to have Sizemore card instead of John Lackey, or Nava or Doubront, or Bradley? Believe it or not, this is slightly more forgivable than Series 2, which had so many released and traded players it was crazy. I fully expect (and will be furious if it doesn’t happen) that the Red Sox checklist in the Update series will be huge. PS: Where the heck are my 2014 Brock Holt cards? Topps, WTF? Moving on…

The other issue I have with Chrome is the hobby box set up. After buying a box of 2012 and a box of 2013, it’s become abundantly clear that “getting what you want” is not part of the deal. The refractors and colored parallels are far too few and far between, the autos are terrible and it’s generally just a mess. Unless you’re busting a case, or pull a super-fractor there’s no earthly way you’re going to walk away happy with Chrome. So, what’s the alternative?

You capitalize on the misfortune of others.

2014_TChrome_Ortiz_Buch_Naps 2014_TChrome_Sizemore

All of these, and the ones I’m about to post below, came from a single seller, as two lots, for under $5 combined. Some poor case buster was looking to make his money back on his terrible investment, and I walked away with pretty much what I wanted for pennies a card.

2014_TChrome_Middlebrooks 2014_TChrome_Koji 2014_TChrome_Victorino 2014_TChrome_Lester

Yup, those are Blue parallels (/199) and even the /99 Sepia Lester in the bottom corner. This is how I buy Chrome. No more 4 card packs, no more blasters of junk. “Lots” of cards no one else wants, so much so that the sellers hardly even list anything beyond “you get all the cards in the pic”. Love it. All together I’m one Mike Napoli refractor away from a complete set of those, a 3 X-fractors short on that set. I won’t bother chasing the blue and the sepia. I get my fill of Chrome pretty quickly and then give up. That’s ok, it’s not like anyone is hurting for parallels to chase these days.

That also fits with my philosophy on parallels anyway. It’s the “nice if you’ve got them” principle. I don’t need any parallels. I need, in the deep seeded, completionist, collector sort of way, I need the base team set. I must have it. The parallels, they’re nice, they’re shiny, but after a couple, I’m good. I don’t go nuts chasing down every single variation. I’ve tried to do that with my Holt collection and it usually only ends in pain. One parallels is nice, two is better, but I’m never going to lose sleep over not having that 16th and 17th copy.

Hometown Heroes

I think, in all honesty, that his is perhaps the most perfect unlicensed set in existence. I love that Panini tries different things rather than resting on their old ideas (ahem, Topps, are you paying attention?). The set is retro, it’s bright and colorful, and it’s filled with all of my favorite players. With the exception of air-brushed hats, this set is near perfection.

Hometown_Heroes_TeamSet_01

I feel like an idiot for missing the ball on these originally. I never saw any in a retail setting, and they seemed fairly didn’t seem to stick around very long. To my knowledge, there wasn’t a 2012 version and there isn’t a 2014 version planned, so maybe these were just a one-off or a test product to see how they were received. They’re an interesting blend of Golden Age and Heritage and the yellow (love it or hate it) really stands out. These eventually came to my attention after I received a Shane Victorino “Flyin Hawaiian” insert in a trade and the Jason Varitek in a card lot. I looked up the set and a seller had the entire thing for roughly $3. Done and done.

Hometown_Heroes_TeamSet_02

The checklist is just awesome. Pedroia, Nomar, Boggs, Tek, Youk and even a few players from my youth like Rice, Burks and Greenwell.

I really like these and I’m glad I spotted the ebay listing for the set. Now I can try and find a couple inserts and call it complete.

Catching up

This summer had been a bit of a roller-coaster, especially professionally. All the company restructuring that was supposed to happen didn’t pan out, the company is now solidified once again, with a new “cost cutting” management team, which probably means a round of layoffs at some point. I feel fairly confident that they won’t involve me, but you’re never really certain about those sorts of things.

The situation with my family has also resolved itself, through heated arguments, resulting in them being angry at me for asserting myself and taking control of the situation. Apparently I’m not supposed to be a grown-up when talking to my parents, and by acting as one, they feel threatened. It’s for the best that they left, maybe they’ll come around someday. Honestly, I’ve stopped caring. You can only be taken advantage of for so long.

All that drama that had left me with fairly sleepless nights, stress and stomach ulcers has seemingly dissipated for the moment. While I feel much better now, it resulted in being in a pretty low place this summer. Now I have some catching up to do. I haven’t posted, I haven’t collected, I haven’t really given anything beyond my personal sphere of influence much thought.

I have a few personal projects I’m hoping to work on. My main quest for the fall is to clean out the garage. We’ve been housing the accumulated junk from three generations of family and it’s time to simply let some of it go. I think we’re going to rent a dumpster. It’s the only way to really get rid of some of it. Once that’s cleaned out, I’ll have a work space to work on everything else. There’s a large work bench area which includes some nice cabinets and even a drill press and grinder. That could go a long way in helping…

Mod out my smoker. I’m excited at the thought of taking my BBQ smoking to the next level. I’ve always been a BBQ nut, but living in Texas has brought that to a whole new level. I’ve perfected my ribs and pork butt and my brisket is coming along nicely. Most people say the first two are excellent and they went over well at the recent large cookouts I’ve done. My brisket is ok, perfectly acceptable, but it’s nothing out of this world. I think it’s mainly the cuts of meat I get. I’m limited to mostly Select and Choice. It’s expensive to step up to the Prime grade or something crazy like some Texas Wagu. I want to nail my flavor profile before I drop $100 on a brisket. My smaller smokers and my vertical smoker are great for smaller cooks, but if I’m having 40 people over I’m going to need something a little bigger. Saving for my next super-large smoker is something I’m going to budget for.

Also on the list is my growing home media server. I’ve gone back through my massive collection of music and movies and I’ve been ripping personal copies whenever I have a spare minute. I started with the things we watch and listen to the most, which these days tends to be Pixar and Disney movies. The kiddo loves having an entire digital library at her fingertips. I Frankenstein’ed a server together, stuck three 1TB drives in it and I’m in the process of filling them up. I’m running Plex as my interface across my Roku devices and I’m using CouchPotato and SickBeard in additional to my already established collection to supply content. So far it’s going quite well. I need to swap out the video card for something tiny and passively cooled. Since I occasionally need to poke around at settings, I have it hooked up to a monitor and the only video card I had laying around is a gaming grade double-slot card. It’s loud, hot and completely overkill. I’ll find something on sale one day and replace it.

Elsewhere, I’m back on finishing up my various websites again. With WP 4.0 finally out and a theme I can use as a platform, I can move forward with at least two of them. I’ve got all the content uploaded to my portfolio site but I haven’t found the time to write descriptions and tag everything. I’ve also got 3 or 4 client sites to work on which are keeping me busy and supplied with a little card money for the ever growing collection.

These days boxes and packs just do nothing for me but simply buying team sets doesn’t really have any thrill to it. It’s still fun, but I’m constantly refining what I’m looking for in a collection. I’m leaning more and more towards slightly higher-end singles. I’d rather pay $10 for a card I really want than $20 for a blaster of crap. I also need to refine my lists again. I also need to make a massive COMC/Sportlots purchase and just finish off some of them. Things like 2 minis from 2012 Ginter are easily picked up and it would be good to just cross those sorts of things off the list.

That’s all. There wasn’t really any point to this entire post, just felt like getting some stuff off my chest.

 

Destiny – The Vanilla Ice Cream of Gaming

I was talking to several friends who occasionally and casually game and they all asked me my thoughts on Destiny, the latest shooter/mashup from Bungie. They had seen the marketing blitz and were wondering if the game was worth playing. The best analogy I could come up with (and after some deeper reflection, the one that still fits) was that Destiny is a good bowl of vanilla ice cream. Not just any vanilla ice cream, a really good kind. Ben & Jerry’s good. However, it’s the only thing in the bowl. The realization here is that for all the marketing hype about the greatness of Destiny, it’s incomplete. It’s ice cream without any sunday accoutrements. It has no chocolate sauce, no whipped cream, no jimmy’s and no cherry on top. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with good ice cream, it’s just that without it being made into a full dessert experience, you’re left wondering how good it could have been if only they had opted for the waffle cone. (more…)