Diamond Kings

When I saw the initial “preview” of Diamond Kings a couple months ago I thought I could safely ignore it as a product I didn’t really have any interest in. Then I saw the checklist. Then I saw it in person. Now I’m all in. I love these cards. They are awesome. Panini has done an exceptional job with these.

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Recently Acquired

I was going to say “What I’ve Been Buying Lately”, but that’s George’s thing, and I didn’t want to sound like I was ripping that off. Quite honestly, this spring has been absolutely boring. With the exception of Gypsy Queen, which I’m on the fence about, and Diamond Kings, which I’ve loving, there hasn’t been anything to really get excited about. Bowman is boring this year, I can’t actually find any USA Baseball or Prizm for that matter, and nothing else interesting gets released until Ginter in July. I was going to pick up some Americana, but then I saw the checklist was mostly hollywood stars and musicians and kind of tuned out. So, random single cards with combined shipping was the order of the spring.

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2015 Series Uno

I don’t think I ever bothered to post my Series 1 team set, or my impressions on the design. To say I’m a bit behind is an understatement. Honestly, there just hasn’t been all that much to excite me this winter regarding baseball cards. I knew what Series 1 was going to look like back in the fall, when Topps previewed the design. It’s different, it doesn’t have a white border, it’s generally not terrible. Oddly enough I find myself looking for the “foil” versions and they’ve seemingly limited them quite a bit. No super shiny odd-colored parallels, which is a good thing. Just a “rainbow” version which is very lightly chromed. I think they’re going to exploit the ever living heck out of that fact for Chrome this year, but that’s to be expected.

I think what I was most put off by was that my team set wasn’t really complete. It’s not the fault of the seller I purchased it from, although they did the same thing for Heritage and it’s a bit more aggravating, but they compiled an incomplete set and peddled it as a “Master Set”. Again, it’s mostly Topps fault. You can’t really pre-sell something that you don’t know what the contents are going to be. In this case, it’s hard to sell a set when Topps doesn’t give you a checklist. My set was missing two inserts (one unannounced and one retail exclusive) that I had to hunt down after the fact.

Normally, hunting for a card is half the fun. It’s the “sport” of collecting. If something is hard to find it’s more of a satisfaction once you find it. In this case however, they’re just inserts, cheap ones at that. The “fun” aspect of tracking them down is replaced with frustration that I have to do it in the first place. “Have to” is also relative. No one forces us to find these cards. I believe there’s a little “completionist” in all of us that needs these cards, but even that little voice needs to occasionally shut up.

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It’s not a bad set. The design is interesting. I like the texture it has. It’s also has quite a few rookie cards. I don’t remember another year where there were five or more Red Sox RCs in Series 1. I guess that’s what happens when you blow up the roster at the trade deadline and bring up half of the AAA team. A lot of guys get their required games to be considered rookies.

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I love the photo on JBJ’s card. I have my doubts that he’ll start the year in the Majors, my money is firmly in the Mookie Betts camp, but it’s an awesome card regardless.2015_Topps_Series1_Boston_Set_04

Inserts time. I don’t quite understand how Cespedes is “Inspired Play” and was “inspired by” Jim Rice. The highlights cards are kind of plain, they’re just filler.

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Again, I’m not getting the “archetypes” cards. I could think of about 20 other players besides Cespedes who exemplify the Red Sox and who’s playing style is an “archetype” for others. Yaz, Fisk, Rice, I could go on. The “Gallery of Greats” was one that I had to track down. Hobby only. I would have assumed that it would have been in my “Master Set” seeing as how I’m paying for “All the Inserts”, but apparently I’m wrong. People need to work on their definition of “master set”. I like the idea of the “Free Agent 40”, but the explanation of the insert set is a little weird. “Free Agent 40 (15 cards, 1:8) looks at some of the biggest signings over the last four decades.” Ok, I get that, but “40” makes it sound like either the players are 40 years old, or there are 40 players in the set. I guess alliteration trumps logic.

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Here’s the last card I had to track down. Retail only. A little “ESPN” feeling with the “techno-border”, but a neat insert set in general. Like GQs “Glove Stories” in a way. This one was also not in my master set, despite the seller opening both retail and hobby cases. On the upside, these weren’t exactly hard to find. While I was at it, I also picked up a couple of the relics from Series 1…

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There’s a couple others out there as well, I forget if there are 4 or 5 on the checklist. I’m not terribly concerned with plain swatches these days, especially when they can be picked up for $0.99. I’m sure I’ll get some more eventually, but these two seemed like a good start.

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Lastly, from the same seller, they had some of the “Spring Fever” cards as well. I was able to pick up the Ortiz and the Pedey, but they were all out of the Hanley Ramirez card. I’ll have to track that down, begrudgingly.

 

Traded

So, I’m a bit late with the Jon Lester pity party. Actually, there’s not that much pity to throw around. If the Red Sox were truly serious they would have offered him an appropriate contract last spring. They were looking to be cheap, thought he might take a discount, and misread the free agent market. It happens. I really liked Lester. He’s a solid pitcher, a top of the rotation guy, and he’ll be missed. There’s no ill will against the Cubs either. Theo threw “crazy money” at him and it worked. The Cubs needed someone. They desperately needed a face for the franchise and now they have it. I wish Lester and the Cubs all the luck in the world.

That said, we need to move on. Pitching needs to be acquired. As much as I want to believe in each and every prospect, you certainly can’t start the season with Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and 3 guys from AAA. There were also the other problems that needed addressing. Will Middlebrooks’ performance, too many outfielders, etc.

So far, Cherrington seems to be maintaining the trust of the Fenway Faithful. He’s made moves that, for the most part, have made sense. He’s bolstered the infield, added a few key bats, and started the rebuilding process with the rotation. Let’s take a look at the players who’ll be changing zip codes.

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Fire Sale

Today is the MLB trade deadline and holy crap, it’s been insane. It’s 1pm (central time), so there’s still a little time left, but there’s already been major moves, most of them centering around the Red Sox.

Red Sox sent Lester and Gomes to the A’s for Yoenis Cespedes and a Comp B pick

I was honestly hoping that the Sox would hold on to Lester and get a contract deal done by the end of the year. He was easily our #1 starter and the loss stings. On the flip side, the acquisition of Cespedes is insanely good. There was no way I thought the A’s would part with him. The Red Sox needed help in the outfield, desperately and went out of got it. The real question is, after the rental of Lester to the A’s, would he be willing to come back? Having Lester and Cespedes in 2015 would clearly be better than Cespedes alone, but they’re going to have to throw crazy money at Lester to do it. Does getting traded sour Lester on Boston in general? That remains to be seen, but in my mind he’s gone for good. Losing Gomes as well would have been bad without a replacement, but Cespedes more than makes up for any production loss. So, essentially, we upgraded left field but lost an ace, who was going to be a free agent anyway. Food for though, Cespedes has out homered the entire Red Sox outfield, combined, this year.

I’ll give it a B for now, an A+ if they can somehow resign Lester in the off-season

Red Sox send Lackey to Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly

I’ve never liked Lackey, there, I said it. Something about his mouth-breathing weirdness, I don’t know, he just never really impressed me. He wasn’t going to pitch well next year, he looked like he had given up. He was talking retirement rather than make the league minimum on this extension/club-option year. Getting anything more than a bag of balls for him was a win-win. It gives the Cardinals a mid-rotation guy that has post season experience while giving Boston another bat (Craig) to try and get something working as well as a potential back of the rotation replacement (Kelly). IF Kelly works out, he’ll be joining a whole platoon of young pitchers from Pawtucket. Best of all, since we’re clearly abdicating this year, you can let them all get some big league experience. Webster, Barnes, Wilson, Workman, De la Rosa, now Kelly. Let’s see what the kids can do!

Final review – A-. Lackey was done. Getting something for nothing works for me.

Red Sox send Jake Peavy to Giants for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree

Yes, this happened prior to today, still counts. I liked Peavy, and I know he liked Boston (he even bought a Duck Boat), and he was great in the post season, when we needed him the most, but something never really fit. He never got any run support, he never really endeared himself to fans. If we had gotten Peavy 4-5 years ago, I would be more upset, but it seems like he might be past his prime, he’s getting ready to retire as well. Getting Escobar (a starting pitcher) who’s just on the edge and ready to be brought up and Hembree (relief pitcher) has a lot of upside coming out of the bullpen, was certainly better than just letting Peavy walk after the season.

Trade Grade – B – Not so much for the loss, but for the two players in return may/may not work out

Red Sox send Andrew Miller to Baltimore for Eduardo Rodriguez

Hmm, initially I didn’t like this one. I really really liked Miller. He’s a solid, proven, highly valuable, left-handed reliever. I’ve never heard for Rodriguez. The only thing that slightly changed my perspective is that Miller was going to be a free agent. It had been reported, multiple times, that Miller liked Boston and wanted to resign. So, the question is, is this another rental? Will Miller want to come back? What did we get in return? Apparently Baltimore’s #3 prospect, although the numbers don’t really bare that out. He’s 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA in Double-A. I don’t really understand how that’s a good deal. Miller was dominant. I hope, pray, that they “know” that Miller will resign in the off season, otherwise this one is a loss.

Trade Grade – D

Steven Drew to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson

Who in the hell is Kelly Johnson? Doesn’t matter. Steve Drew is gone! Huzzah! Getting anything more then a bucket of popcorn for Drew is a huge win.

Trade Grade – A++

Bottom Line

The Red Sox are a better team today than they were yesterday. Yes, they gave up pitching, but they were potentially losing FOUR of the pitchers at the end of the year anyway. Getting anyone, let alone several solid pieces, in exchange is kind of a best case scenario. In my mind, major league baseball players (and major league “ready” players) are under-valued and low-minor league players and prospects are over-valued. If you can get major league usable players, now, to me that’s better than taking the gamble on prospects who might not work out. Also, not only do you have pieces you can plug in now, you have an excess of prospects you don’t technically need. Those all become trade bait for the off season. If Edwin Escobar never pitches for Boston, but gets traded for someone else who might, that’s not really a loss is it?

Hitting Brockets

On my desktop there is a folder. A folder called “Blog Cards”, into which I dump all my scans. There are currently 74 items in said folder, all waiting to be talked about. Some are common, some are random, some are just too awesome to stay unmentioned any longer. Those include the latest editions to my Brock Holt collection.
Let’s pause for a moment and appreciate the human highlight reel this kid is…
 

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