A Real Quick Trade Post

Most of my writing time lately has been devoted to school papers and TTM letters, so I haven't been posting. Sorry about that. This one's going to be very brief.

I banged out a quick trade over at TCDB recently, and just wanted to send a shout of thanks to Sean, aka Broadway, for the Astros that just showed up at my door. I'd sent over some Panini Cooperstown cards he requested.

Sean helped me out with some cards from this year's recent releases, sending over some Gypsy Queen and Heritage cards. This gets me some Ken Giles cards in a Houston uniform, so now it's time to try to track down another signature from the flamethrower. After a rough start, it looks like "100 Miles" Giles is back on track. Carlos Gomez, however, has become a black hole at the plate. Where has your swing gone, Go-Go?

I absolutely love that team celebration card - getting one of those signed by all four players on it would really be something special. I suppose that will be my new mini-quest. If anyone has a spare copy, I'll take it. Also, is it just me or do the facsimile signatures on this year's Heritage look especially thin? It seems odd.

I know I haven't been posting much, and that a lot of you offered to take cards off my hands. I'm still planning to do this. My fourth semester of grad school just wrapped up, and I'm carrying a nice hefty 3.818 GPA! I'm taking a mini-mester course, so I haven't had a break yet. I've got a week here full of essay writing - a four page research paper, five two-page article reviews, and twenty 500 word discussion posts on an equal number of articles. Once that's all done, I'll have some more time to write and put packages together.

Also, because I have the same rabid love of cardboard that we all share, I have bought plenty of 2016 cards, and I would love to trade you some for some Astros. If you've got needs from flagship, Opening Day, Donruss, Gypsy Queen, or Heritage, hit me up and I'll see what I can find for you.

Wow! This went longer than expected. I guess that's what ten minutes uninterrupted at the office can do for you. Speaking of, time to get back to work.

Until later,

 - Marc


Astros FanFest Report: Astro-graphs Galore!

Alright, Opening Day has come and gone and I'm still way behind on posting. At least my Astros beat the Evil Empire in their first game! Correa looked great.

I promised a post on Astros FanFest. Back in January, my loving wife let me go up to the ballpark and stand in lines for five hours to get squiggles from men - mostly men younger than I at this point, save for the "Astros Legends" group and one Mr. Scott Feldman.

At this point, two months down the road, I'm fairly lost as to the order that this happened in, so unfortunately I'm at a loss for narrative here. I will say that it was a fantastically gorgeous day, 50 to 60 degrees with bright blue skies and the roof open at Minute Maid Park. However, that meant it was going to be a rather chilly day full of waiting in lines.

I zipped right in towards the front of the initial autograph group, and immediately knew it was going to be a good day. While I don't have a whole lot of the day's order down, this guy was definitely in the initial group of players. 

That right there made my day. So who else did I land during my frigid morning?

Well, I'm pretty certain the first group of players also featured Jason Castro and Jake Marisnick. Marisnick will start out as the fourth outfielder, and he's hands-down one of my favorite guys on the squad: fun to watch, amazing in the field with a canon for an arm, and when he's hitting it's spectacular.

Pretty sure that Preston Tucker was in that first group as well. This kid's got a nice bat. He's currently 5th outfielder and could see the occasional DH at-bat with Gattis out.

Here's another pair of these team-issued postcards. I had run out of stuff for Marwin to sign, so I just picked one of these up when I went through the line. Same thing with Chris Sampson, who was signing at the "Astros Legends" table. Hmm... Chris Sampson, Astros Legend? Yeah, I don't think I'm buying that one. So who else was at this supposed legendary table?

Terry Puhl, a long-standing and serviceable right fielder with a .993 fielding percentage, a .372 average in 13 postseason games across three series (including .526 in the 1980 NLCS) who played for Houston from 1977-1990. Terry's a member of both the Canadian Baseball and Texas Baseball Halls of Fame. So, sure: legend status accepted I suppose.

Brandon Backe, local hurler whose career was ended after police broke up a wedding he was attending and damaged his shoulder. Backe's bona-fides? Excellent performances in the 2004 postseason, and fine performance in 2005 as the Astros made the World Series. Backe's originally from down the road in Galveston, where he was a stud at Galveston Ball High School. Legend? Probably not. Nice to see? Most certainly.

Next up was Colt .45's outfielder Carl Warwick, who was involved in the first trade Houston ever made. In June 1962, the Colts shipped opening day starter Bobby Shantz to St. Louis in return for Warwick and pitcher John Anderson. Carl did hit for a nice bit of power in the short time he spent with the club. I was pretty happy to check this one off my list. Legend status? Meh, though he does get points for being involved in the first trade.

Warwick hit 23 homers across 254 games in his two seasons with Houston, before being traded back to St. Louis at the beginning of 1964, where he landed on a World Series champion. The Legends Table line was moving incredibly slow (so much that I thought I might miss the next signing), so the handlers were trying to make sure everyone only signed one item. There was a bit of a roadblock in front of me though, so Warwick was happy to sign a few more. "Don't let her know I signed extras for you," he told me, referring to the handler over his shoulder.

There were two more players at the Legends Table that were most assuredly legit, which I'll save for the end of this post.

I hustled back to the current player autograph area to get in line for the next group of players. I'm fairly certain that Feldman was in this group, and he happily signed a pair for me. At the time, Feldman was the only player on the active roster older than myself - which did make me feel a bit silly for getting blue scribbles from all these guys. Since FanFest, the Astros have acquired two more guys that outrank me in age: new backup catcher Erik Kratz and rotation addition Doug Fister, who's got about two months on me.

I saw Lance Jr. again, who was a real hit with all the fans. I'm hoping he returns to form once he's back up with the club, which should be next month. The delay should actually help with his innings limit.

I didn't have an Astros card of Colby, so I whipped up a custom, based on the 1984 Topps design with a bit of my own tweaking, and gave him an extra copy of it. Collin McHugh was super nice - I know he's a big coffee drinker, so I asked if he'd ever been by the shop I used to work at (Catalina, best coffee in Houston) and recommended he stop by sometime.

Two more Valbuenas for the collection, including another of these '84-ish customs.

I had the same lack of Astros cards with Stassi, so I tried a couple options, and gave them copies as well.

When it came down to the last signing group, I didn't actually have a ticket, but there were some names on the list that I really wanted. Groups hadn't been announced until just before the signings, so I hung around for a bit to see if I could perhaps buy someone's extra ticket.

Eventually, I lucked out and ran into a guy who's friend wasn't able to make it. He'd let me have his buddy's ticket, no charge, if I'd use my one item to get a second Mike Fiers 8x10 signed for this gentleman.

I agreed, although just a wee bit heavy-hearted. I still needed a Fiers card signed, and that was one of the key people in this last group.

I netted another pair of Singleton signatures, including the great 15 GQ with the tequila sunrise jersey.

Josh Fields has been rather good out of the 'pen, so I was pretty happy to come away with his signature. Fiers, by the way, was more than fine with signing the extra card for me. We were very close to the end of the line, so that probably helped.

Alright, I've saved two of the biggest scores from the day for last: El Oso Blanco was in the third group if I recall correctly. The scan doesn't show it well, but his signature really pops on this Topps Chrome card. Altuve was the lead man in the last group, and although I'd gotten him just two days earlier I felt like an absolute kid again when the prospect of getting another signature came up. I guess the bug never goes away.

Oh yes, let's not forget the two true Astros Legends I mentioned earlier. 

Yep, I came away with new signatures from J.R. Richard and Jimmy Wynn! I'd met J.R. before at a book signing, but this was the first time I'd gotten to shake hands with the Toy Cannon. They were also nice enough to sign a second card for me, though J.R.'s wife sure didn't want to allow him to do so. She was trying to keep the line going, and J.R. will talk all day long given the opportunity.

Here's the extra card. If you have spares of this one, I'll take them all off your hands. I'd like to get several more of these signed by former players.

Alright, I know this one was a doozy of a post. Hopefully I can get some trade posts knocked out in the near future.

- Marc


Belated: The Astros Winter Caravan

I really should be doing some Business Modeling homework at the moment, but my brain needs a break. Plus, it's gorgeous outside, so I figured I'd sit on the porch and bang out a long overdue post.

This one happens to be two months overdue at this point, but who's counting anymore? Back in January when classes were yet to begin or just getting underway, I managed to hit up a few of the Astros "Winter Caravan" stops, in hopes of making some more progress on my autograph project.

One day I happened to get done with work early and caught the tail end of an appearance at a Whataburger across town. For those of you not in the know, Whataburger is pure glory. Do yourself a favor when you come through town.

Marwin Gonzalez, A.J. Hinch, and Big Jon Singleton were the scheduled 'stros, so I ducked inside. I quickly spotted Marwin and A.J. talking to some fans and reporters, but I'd run out of stuff for Marwin to sign and Hinch just now got his first Astros card in 2016 Heritage. So I landed another Hinch rookie, and went looking for Jonathan.

There's a fairly standardized system for these appearances. They're one to two hours long, and the team will typically have one guy "work" behind the counter, one in the restaurant talking to fans, and one at the drive-thru, handing out food. With Singleton nowhere to be found, I knew what I had to do.

So I got back in my car, and pulled through, ordering a sweet tea. Jonathan handed it to me with a big smile, so I asked if he'd mind signing a couple cards. He happily obliged, and I drove off with these two new additions to the collection.

The next day, three Astros were scheduled to make an appearance at the Chik-Fil-A down the street from our office. Literally, I can walk there in less than five minutes for lunch (and certainly have before). The names: Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, and new closer-to-be Ken Giles.

It was a morning appearance, so I got there early and ordered breakfast, and sat around the madhouse that was an obscenely packed restaurant and patio. Eventually the players arrived, and I'd positioned myself well by the door. I managed to ask Jose, and he motioned that he had to get inside. Strike one.

So I dashed around the restaurant to the side door, sneaking in to try and land him at the counter. He signed two baseballs for the people next to me before walking back behind the counter. Strike two.

Keuchel started taking orders, and I briefly attempted to get him before realizing that was pure futility. Giles and Altuve had been ushered toward the drive-thru, so I went to my backup plan. This time I opted for an Arnold Palmer.

To my chagrin, it wasn't Altuve doling out chicken, but rather Ken Giles. It was still crazy inside, and that wasn't helping the drive-thru line at all either. My Arnold Palmer hadn't made it to the window yet. "I'll get to the bottom of this," Giles assured me with a smile, and then apologized for the delay. I could see Altuve over his shoulder, talking to the staff in Spanish and snapping photos. Low and away, ball one.

I asked Ken if he'd mind signing a card while I awaited my drink, and and he replied, "of course!"

Taking the card and marker, he turned over his shoulder to Altuve and remarked, "hey look, this guy came prepared!"

This was the moment - a hanging curve that I could either crush or foul into the stands, but I might as well swing. "Jose, I have a card of you too, would you mind signing it?"

"Sure," he said, taking the card and chuckling as he squiggled upon it, "I have the worst sign[nature] in all [of] baseball."

And with that, I landed what has been the white whale on the roster for the past few years.

There was one more appearance, later that evening. Seeing as I've written a novella at this point, I'll make it brief. At an Academy (that's a sporting goods shop here, in case it's not in your region), young fireballer Lance McCullers Jr. and free-swinging, bat-flipping, dazzling third baseman Luis Valbuena were signing some autographs.

I approachedd McCullers, and not wanting to try for too much, settled for a single card. Seeing more than one small kid approach him with a Lance McCullers Sr. card, I asked how many times he gets asked to sign cards of his dad.  "I see them a bunch," he said.

I will say, the kid has impeccable poise and an immaculate jaw. I'd be weak-kneed in the box facing him.

That brought me to Valbuena, who was consistently one of my favorite Astros to watch last season and simultaneously one of the most frustrating at the plate. His defense is remarkable, with great instincts, range, and a cannon arm. He's got pop at the plate, and was literally one of the unluckiest hitters in the league last year, spending most of the season ranked in the top ten for hard-hit ball percentage and in the bottom ten for BABIP.  The faux-'71 on the right is a custom I made last summer when I apparently had some time.

Robert Ford, who is in the new wave of great radio broadcasters, was also there - I wish I'd know that because I would've whipped up a quick custom for him to sign. I did walk out with these two postcards, though, and thanked Mr. Ford for his work. It's certainly a pleasure listening to him call a game.

Ok, there are many more to come from the actual FanFest. First, I need to kick some spreadsheet butt, though.

 - Marc


RTA: A Brief Update

First, an answer to many of the questions that have rolled in through blog comments, email, and TCDB: yes, I am still looking to unload most of my cards.

Life and school have conspired to keep me incredibly busy this year, so I haven't had much time to devote to it. I'm going to try compiling a list of everyone who has contacted me so far, and a list of what is "unclaimed." Hopefully I can do that in the next week or so.

If you sent me a message or proposal through TCDB, I moved my entire collection over to "For Trade" and am proceeding to pull off the items I intend to keep. So, these lists probably won't be up to date for a good while.

Second: a few of you have been kind enough to send me some pre-emptive trade packages, and thank you very much to each of you. I have some drafts that I'm hoping to get to before long, so that I can properly acknowledge you.

Third: a bunch of autographs have rolled in since I've last updated my TTM reportage. Since I'm focusing on buying less and enjoying what I am keeping, autographs have become a more significant portion of my collection.

Finally, because every post needs a picture: here's one of the most recent additions to the Astrographs project. This one wasn't a TTM success, but from a private signing that a fellow Astro collector was holding.

Thanks to some spreadsheet wizardry (thanks MBA classes!) I've managed to do some basic metrics breaking down of my Astrograph project. I'm at 255 autographs from players and coaches in a Houston uniform, and an additional 41 players depicted in some other uniform, be it major or minor league. Hawkins comes in at number 253 on the list.

Perhaps this was slightly more than brief, but it's what I could pound out here at the end of spring break. I unfortunately haven't been able to keep up with most of the blogs I love to follow.

May your pulls be spectacular, and as always: Remember the Astrodome!

 - Marc



I made a really big decision this week. Look, I enjoy collecting. We all do, or we wouldn't take the time to write posts and scan cards. Back around Labor Day I started re-prioritizing my collecting goals. I'm about to flip almost all of that on its head.

According to my log over at the Trading Card Database, I've got 42,194 cards in my collection, plus the additional 4,010 that are officially listed in my Trade list. That doesn't count the big box worth of junk wax I've been trying to unload, or the couple blasters worth of 2016 I just bought. So let's just say it's somewhere around 50,000 cards. That's over four cards a day for every day I've been alive.

About 6,000 of those are Astros cards. Some of those are probably duplicates, too.

The goal is to now unload 80% of my collection. I'll keep all my 'Stros for now, and the PC's I enjoy, and a nice chunk of my autographs (which, according to my spreadsheet count, exceeds 1400 signatures at this point), and some of the older cards I just enjoy.

Now's the part where I ask for your help. This is for my sanity and personal well-being. I need everyone out there in our beloved card-blog land to take a stack. Tell me what you're looking for, what teams, players, sets, anything. I will send it to you, and then some. Are you crazy enough to work on a team autograph project? Well I can probably help out with a name or two there as well. 

I'll still happily take Astros cards off your hands. But 80% to 90% of this stuff has to get out of here. I'd prefer to give as much of it as possible to you wonderful folks.

Alright. That's the heavy dope. Here's a rad card I had autographed at Astros FanFest two weeks ago. There are many more in a post to come, but this is one of my favorite additions.

That's one of these fantastic Astrodome cards from 2014 Heritage, signed by two of the best to ever do it at the 'Dome: the "Toy Cannon" Jimmy Wynn and fireballer J.R. Richard. If you've got spares of this card, you can send those my way. I wouldn't mind getting a few more of them signed.

- Bru

P.S. If you collect a football or basketball team, please let me know. With very few exceptions, all of those must go. That's another 2,500 - 3000 cards.


The First Cards of 2016

Today after work, I checked my local Target on a wild hunch. I've known them to put cards out a day early, so why not go ahead and see if they would do it two days early? Well, it paid off, and I walked out with two rack packs and a blaster of 2016 Topps!

So, without further ado, allow me to present you my first Astros cards of 2016, starting with our main man, Jose Altuve. That's a pretty sweet batting shot of our second baseman, if I may say so.

Two of our four main outfielders: Jake Marisnick and Colby Rasmus.

And a trio from the pen, including now-National Oliver Perez.

And, let's add a fourth, shall we? Here's sidearmer Pat Neshek, who will probably be down to 7th inning duty at this point, now that we have Giles and Gregerson to lock down the 8th and 9th. This one should have some ink on it before long.

The last two Astros cards I pulled were of the horizontal variety. That's the team celebrating after Mike Fiers no-hitter on the left, and over on the wins leaders we have 20-game winner "Cy" Keuchel and Collin McHugh. How many of you knew that McHugh beat out the rest of the AL pitchers with 19 wins? Short-changed on this card? King Felix, who tied Price with 18.

Alright, let's show off a few of my favorite photographs in the pack that weren't Astros. Here are the best fielding and pitching shots I pulled. Sonny Gray just looks classy as heck with the high socks.

Here's a pair of horizontals as well. Hmm, I seem to have picked both Tigers cards. The "Motor City Mashers" is a checklist, featuring our dearly departed J.D. Martinez. Kinsler might be my second-favorite second baseman (say that five times fast) in the AL, and that's a nice shot.

Are you ready for insert mania? Because there's a boatload of them. Including the three parallels, I pulled thirty-one non-base cards.

Oh hell, let's start with the parallels. These two cross-town Chicago-ans are Rainbow Foils. I tried to bump the saturation so you could tell - it shows a little better on the Lester. Both available.

This is a Gold parallel. Hi MVP Josh Donaldson. As you can tell, the nameplate and team banner are foiled, as was my scanner. Hah, puns.

Here's my manu-"relic" MLB Debut coin from the blaster. Thick as a full pack of cards. MLB Debut looks to be the "First Home Run" insert of 2016. Blegh. I'll keep the Willie Mays, though.  The ones I pulled in the rack packs had silver foil, the blasters had copper foil. Not pictured: Victor Martinez, Mike Piazza, Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout (copper) and Bernie Williams and Doc Gooden (silver). All others available but the Trout.

As a photgrapher, these Perspectives inserts are pretty cool. I could do without the word art. I pulled Harper, Buxton, and Bryant. There's a 100 Years insert for Wrigley Field, too. I have no idea how many are in the set, but I know who's getting all of the ones I pull. Hint, he lives in P-Town.

First Pitch is back. That's the jockey who rode American Pharaoh when he won the Triple Crown. Apparently there's going to be a Wacky Packages baseball set this year. This is a preview sticker. Both available.

Did you want creepily pixelated/digitized versions of the Hall of Famers from your youth? TOO BAD, you're getting them anyway. These are fairly atrocious cards of great players. 

Let's close with two of the best that ever did it. Willie Mays is an "Amazing Milestones" insert, which is Target-only and seems to be like Archetypes, or perhaps Chasing History. I also pulled Maddux and Nolan. The Aaron comes from the Berger's Best series, featuring cards of what I think will be a star from each year in Topps history, spread evenly between Series 1, 2, and Update. The downer? Seems like they purposefully printed them a little shoddy. Not pictured: Josh Hamilton ('99), Joe Mauer ('02) and Masahiro Tanaka ('14 - with gold foil).

There were a few more that I didn't scan, including a Walk-Off Wins digital disaster, and what could have been a really cool insert to chase: Pressed Into Service, which features position players who made pitching appearances. Unfortunately, of the ones I pulled - Musial, Mitch Moreland, and Nick Swisher - only one actually depicts him pitching, and that's Swisher. That insert should have been all pitching shots.

Perhaps I'll go check the other Target in my area tonight, and get lucky again. After that, I'll be done buying until Donruss comes out in a month.


P.S. - I have many trade and autograph posts to catch up on, but school has taken priority. Perhaps I can knock some out this weekend. Thank you to everyone who sent me something!