Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Top 100 All-Time Pirates: 100 - Carmen Hill

My posting has slacked off quite a bit lately.  The holidays will do that, I guess.  But I'm hoping to make up for it with an adventurous project that I've been planning for a while now.

I'll be counting down the top 100 players to suit up for the Bucs during the franchise's entire history.  To make the list, I've largely relied upon advanced metrics, like WAR, to adjust for the differences in eras (and in some cases centuries).  The list also accounts for the length a player was with the Bucs, any noteworthy accomplishments (no hitters, post season heroics, etc), though those elements don't factor in in any significant way.

With a team with such a storied and lengthy history, it makes for an interesting project to dig through turn of the century ballplayers who are far from household names.  I have cards of almost all the players to include in these posts, but there are a few guys who have eluded cardboard mentality as a Pirate, or at least eluded my collection.

Anywho...on to the countdown!

Cracking the last spot on the top 100 list is Carmen "Bunker" Hill.
Not exactly your household name, right?

Ah, the days when Revolutionary War references constituted nicknames, rather than some abomination combining the first letters of first and last names.

Bunker Hill?  Sure beats CarHi or CHill or some equally thoughtless nickname.

Hill broke into the majors at the tender age of 19 in 1915.  Despite pitching well in his initial season, putting up an impressive 1.18 era in 3 starts and 5 relief efforts, he would spend the majority of the next decade in the minors, appearing in only 20 major league games between 1916-1922, and out of the majors entirely from 1923-1925.

In 1926, at age 30, Hill reemerged as a solid big league pitcher, earning a permanent rotation spot in 1927.   His 1927 campaign would be the peak of his career, winning 22 games for the eventual NL champs and getting two points in MVP voting on the season.  He would lead the team in wins, posting a 3.24 era over 277 innings.

Hill would return as a starter in 1928, posting a 16-10 record and 16 complete games in 31 starts.

He would move to the bullpen in 1929 before being claimed off waivers by St. Louis in late August.  He would appear in 7 games for St. Louis across 1929 and 1930, and then kick around the minors for a few more seasons before calling it quits.

For his Pirate career, Hill pitched to a 47-31 record with a 3.26 and 47 complete games in 78 starts.  Far from a household name, he is notable both for the span of his career, appearing in games for the Bucs almost 15 years apart, as he is for his exceptional run from '27-28.

The signed index card above is one of my most unique items in my collection (though that wasn't what put Hill on the list), and with a 1915 debut by far my oldest signature.  But fret not, we'll quickly be moving to some more recognizable names on our list.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

It's been a pretty hectic few days around here, which will probably be followed by a few even more hectic weekends.

After a year stranded in Ohio, we're looking forward to all the holiday festivities that Pittsburgh has to offer  And this year, that means cards.  One of the malls in the area that has been bleeding stores for years is having a weekend card show starting on Black Friday.  I'm not planning on doing much holiday shopping aside from a few DVD purchases, but the card show will be on my calendar for Friday.  It will be the first show in the area since I moved back in June, so the dime boxes will hopefully be a sight for sore eyes.

Follow that up with Piratefest in mid December, and I'll be a busy boy.

And of course the holidays also mean a little extra in the card budget.  I'm hoping to score some good deals during COMC's Black Friday sale, and I've found a lot of tougher to find cards pop up on ebay this time of year as people look to make a little extra holiday cash.  I was lucky enough to add a card that had been long been on my want list around this time last year at about half the price previous copies had ended at.

Fleer's EX brand was one of my favorite sets for quite some time, and this dual auto /25 was one of the must have additions to my Jack Wilson collection.  If it weren't for those pesky spring training hats... I'm not expecting any additions of this magnitude this year, since the Jack cards I need have become few and far between.  But I'll still be adding some great new cards I'm sure, as well as shipping a monster COMC order that has been building up since their last free shipping special.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Going Old School

I've been writing quite a bit about my frustrations with modern cards.  And for good reason, if you ask me.  I still enjoy collecting.  Heck, I probably enjoy it more now than most of my collecting lifetime.  But there's just something about current releases that is far from awe inspiring for me.

It's easy to forget there was a time where Topps was still the only game in town, but perhaps things were a little less depressing.  Well, remember is far from the right word.  By the time I was born Fleer, Donruss and Score were all going strong.  Or at least...around. 

Still, there's something to be said for a nice vintage card.

Or in some cases, a not so nice card.

And then of course there are those that just fall smack dab in the middle.

Like this 1967 checklist.  I dug this out of a discount vintage box at the big yearly show in Pittsburgh last year.  I think the card cost $1, maybe even less.  It's in nice shape, and is unchecked.  Score.  And after all, it is a Clemente.  Err, it has his head.

So maybe it isn't a "true" Clemente card.  But it sure beats an ordinary checklist.  Do they even still make checklists?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crossing the Border

2005 Diamond Kings Signature Materials Framed Red Platinum B&W
Silver Materials Framed Red Platinum Black and White

I hope you'll excuse me.  Most of this post will be delivered from my soap box.

The hobby was a crazy place in 2005.  Fleer went belly up midway through the baseball release calendar.  Donruss had their license yanked, and in doing so dumped their remaining game used and autograph inventory in a symphony of hit filled products.

At the time, there was strong sentiment calling for cutting back on the number of products and number of manufacturers.  Good riddance was the cry.  After all, as many collectors would be apt to remind you, Donruss and Fleer just keep turning out product after product filled with parallels where they do nothing more than change up the foil color and numbering.
2005 Diamond Kings Framed Green

And perhaps there was a point.  Things went a little overboard on parallel-a-palooza.  Take a look at 2005 Diamond Kings.  The set didn't have quite the aesthetic brilliance of the prior releases.  But the set still featured gallery style portraits of top players.  And an infinite number of parallel combinations.

Framed versions exist in red, blue, green, and black.  Unframed parallels come in copper, silver, and gold.  And then of coruse there is a platinum version of all of those.  Oh, the player has a game used version?  Good.  There's a version of all of the above for those too.  Plus platinum framed 1/1's for each border.  Oh, and the game used and auto dump resulted in a second set, where all the same players are included...but with black and white photos!
Diamond Kings Materials Silver /100

...and all the same variations.

Clearly things had gone overboard.  But how to right the ship?

Over the next few years, the remaining manufacturers seemed to make little to no effort to change all that much.  Upper Deck, Upper Deck Gold, Upper Deck Predictor Green, Predictor Silver, Predictor Purple.

Ok, we get it.  Parallels.

And now we're a few weeks away from 2014 products hitting the shelves.  Almost a full decade away from the great parallel debate, we now have one manufacturer with full licensing.  One company to rule them all, if you will.

And what happened?  Parallel explosion.

Topps Emerald
Topps Gold /2013
Topps Camo /99
Topps Pink /50
Topps Black /62
Topps Platinum 1/1
Topps Blue Border
Topps Red Border
Topps Purple Border
Topps Slate Blue Sparkle
Topps Slate Silver  /10
Topps Factory Set Orange /260
Topps Saphie /25

and then...
Topps Opening Day
Topps Opening Day Blue Sparkle
Topps Mini
Topps Mini Gold
Topps Mini Pink
Topps Mini Platinum

and printing plates!  Everything must have a printing plate, like every child a womb.

So what's the point?  It's not that I'm angry about the loss of manufacturers (I am).  It's not that I dislike parallels (I love 'em).  But I wonder where did those angry collectors go?  Why was the angry mob up in arms over slight foil changes nine years ago, yet today we gobble up Topps Mini's by the boxload, and bid up hideous Topps Camo cards to $10 when we used to bemoan that numbered parallels didn't mean anything anymore.  Or do we simply turn a blind eye because there is no other choice.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Minor Matters: Coming Full Circle

It seems like things always slow to a crawl around this time of year.  Not many bloggers posting, and very little in the way of new products to talk about.  But maybe that isn't so bad, as we all get a chance to catch up on our want lists.

Minor league cards are fun.  Whether it's seeing a top prospect in their younger days, or simply seeing a player rise through the system, minor league cards are a fun addition to any collection.  But perhaps my favorite minor league cards are of players who leave the system long before hitting paydirt for another organization. 

And sometimes those careers come full cycle.  The Pirates AA affiliate put out a set in 2004 that chronicled all the players that had made it to the bigs on their way through Altoona, whether they ended up in Pittsburgh or not.  The set had a bunch of Pirates players, but also a few surprises of guys who looked like minor league veterans or organizational guys who would eventually get their cup of coffee (or more) elsewhere.

Enter D.J. Carrasco.  He spent parts of 2000 and 2001 with the Curve, putting up some unimpressive stat lines as a 23 and 24 year old before getting bumped down to High A in 2002 at the ripe old age of 25.  His baseball career looked pretty lost.

But a stint in Japan somehow revived his career, where he established himself in the far from overwhelming Royals bullpen in the mid 2000's.  D.J. would sign with the Pirates in 2010, pitching fairly well in 55 innings before a mid season trade to Arizona.

His career seems to have fizzled out shortly after.  But it's still a pretty impressive story for a guy who was pitching in A ball at 25.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

COMC Black Friday

I know there are quite a few COMC shoppers in the blogosphere, so I thought I'd pass this along.  COMC just posted their Black Friday sales on their blog.

The deals?
Free shipping if you purchase 20+ items between Black Friday and Cyber Monday
$5 store credit for every $100
$5 store credit for every 50 items shipped
100 random shopping sprees

The only things that really interest me are the free shipping and items shipped credit.  I believe last year they offered $.10 credit for every item purchased during BF weekend, so it looks like the $5 per 50 items is the same value, but you'll need to have a sizable order to qualify.  Seeing as I currently have about 200 items sitting in my inventory waiting to be shipped, it's a nice bonus.

So what do you think?  Will the weekend sale have any impact on your COMC spending?

Personally, I'll probably grab some cards I've been watching, check to see if any sellers are running good deals, but all told probably won't spend more than $20-30 on the site.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cooking With Gas

I usually try to keep things card-centric here at Battlin' Bucs.  But sometimes things come up that aren't directly card related, but are just too darn interesting not to pass along.

Like this piece at one of my favorite Bucs blogs:

The Spaknotes?  Pitchers across the league are throwing exponentially harder than they were as recently as 2007, with the number of players throwing an average of 95mph increasing almost four fold.

And unlike past baseball trends (read: the HR explosion of the 90's, Latin American scouting in the early 2000's, intelligent drafting), the Pirates are actually on top of this one.

Now it wasn't hard to notice a bunch of guys throwing in the upper 90's in the Pirates pen.  And obviously we see a lot of the likes of Aroldis Chapman and the Cardinals entire roster (seriously, I think even the bat boy can throw over 93 there) here in Pittsburgh.  But it's interesting to look at the numbers across the league.

Heck, this season alone the Buccos traded away two guys who threw in the upper 90's.

And that's about two more guys than the Pirates had on the entire staff that threw in the upper 90's from 2005-2009.

Take the numbers to mean what you will.  But obviously this marks a pretty interesting change in the game.  Now let's get some of those awesome die cut flamethrower 90's insert sets back!


It's certainly been an interesting awards season for the Pirates, capped off with an MVP award.

I can't really say that I ever anticipated a Pirate winning an MVP award.  Or at least that it would be the smallish, skinny centerfielder that was called up in 2009.  Good player?  Sure.  All-Star?  I hope so.  MVP?  I wouldn't have called that one.

I'm going to kick back and enjoy the rest of the off season until it's time for Piratefest in a month.  Hopefully there will be some cool bobbleheads coming out way next year to commemorate the awards.

Who'd have thunk the big debate coming out of the 2005 draft was McCutchen vs Maybin?  Needless to say it looks like the Pirates made the right pick.

Starting 9: Band On the Run

I don't know that any major league franchise has had quite the luck the Athletics have had.  Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland.  Some world titles.  And a stadium that looks like it could be outclassed by a A ball stadium in Oshkosh.* But the team just seems to keep winning through all of it.

*note: The author hasn't the slightest idea if there is actually a baseball field in Oshkosh.  Or people, for that matter.

One thing I love about the A's is the infinite number of uniform variations the team has used over the past few decades.  And who can't love a team with an elephant mascot?

At one point a Jose Canseco RC was the grail of collectors.  When this one came to me, it was a dime box pickup.  Oh how the mighty have fallen.  But thankfully the world has done away with those awkward mesh jerseys.

 It's not every day you see a player whose position is "Pinch Runner."  I've always liked cards that have unique position designations.  There aren't many of them, but perhaps it's time to focus a mini collection of "Utility Infielder" "Pinch Hitter" and "C-OF-1B" cards.
 Some of my favorite non-Pirate cardboard is from the KC A's days.  Teams don't move around nearly as much as they did before sports became big business.  I'm still not sure whether I consider that a good thing or a bad thing.
 His days in St. Louis have made a lot of people forget about Mark McGwire's turbulent tenure in Oakland.  In retrospect, the haul for Big Mac was insanely low, and that kind of power would have been a huge addition for quite a few teams *cough*Pirates*cough*.  of course his 7M salary was almost equal to the Pirates payroll in 1997, which clocked in at 13M.  Oops.
 Another vintage shot of a team gone by.  There's something interesting about the dark blue/red color combo to me, and I find it interesting that neither the Oakland incarnation of the A's nor the expansion Royals utilized those colors after the A's left KC.

 Does anybody remember the white hate the expansion Diamondbacks used in promotional material and photoshoots leading up to their inaugural season?  I have a few spring training photos of the club wearing them, but the hats never seemed to make it into regular season action.  I've been looking for info on that story for years with no luck.  Regardless, Billy Martin.  White hat.  It's related, I swear!
 Rickey Henderson is a man of many hats.  But I think most will always look at him as an A.  But take a look at that very un-HoF stat like.  .260, 6 homers, and 22 steals?  The Man of Steal looked like he has lost his touch in '95.  Of course he would somehow manage to hang on for almost another decade.  A decade!  Plus another stop in Oakland.
 Honestly I had no idea Billy Williams played for the A's.  But I do like the DH-1B position designation.

Wait, wait, wait.  Reggie played for the A's?  Apparently the bargain bin hunting A's attracted more than a few post prime superstars (Mike Piazza?  Frank Thomas?)  This one is of the Topps Glossy variety.  Guess Mr. October is full of surprises.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Starting 9 - Texas Rangers

Over the last few months I've made an effort to move my Pirates collection, autographs, and other random cards I'm rather fond of into binders.  From an organizational standpoint, it has certainly made life easier.  I don't know about you, but it seems that any time I open up a box I manage to screw up whatever order may have existed in the box by the time I put the lid back on.  With binder pages, the cards are at least staying in some type of organization once I get them in there.

So now that there is some order to the chaos, I thought it would be a great time to start showing off some of the binder pages.  You've been warned: there's lots of foil goodness from the 90's, an obscene love of throwback uniforms, and way too many autographs.  I'll try not to disrupt the black and gold theme too much, but hopefully the variety is appreciated.

This page is almost exclusively Juan Gonzalez, except for one perky Pudge card that snuck in.  The Rangers were a team I liked as a kid.  Maybe it was the homers flying out left and right.  Or maybe it was the blue and red color scheme (my two favorite colors as a kid).  Or maybe the fact that a Dean Palmer Starting Lineup figure was one of my favorite toys.  Who knows.

The thing that stands out about all these cards the most is the color explosion.  Foil, refractor, colored goodness is in full effect here.  To some degree I think that's the look Topps has been trying to replicate over the past few years with the Flagship set, mixing up the colors of foil.  But for me the modern cards just don't have the same appeal of gratification.  Not that I don't get excited when I see that foil shine peaking out of a pack.

A few years back I picked up a box of Upper Deck Encore on the cheap.  I don't think I paid more than $20 or so, and the box was worth every penny.

The product was absolutely loaded with inserts, all of which have a rainbow foil - refractor-ish look to them.  The designs are unique, though admittedly a little busy.  But most of all the cards are just downright fun.

Speaking of fun, remember the Crash the Game inserts?  I don't think I ever hit a winner (or at least never realized if I did), but it was always fun to check box scores in the paper to see if any of my cards won.  Of course now the only reason anyone checks a box score is to see how their fantasy player did.  I think I'll be the guy screaming "Get off my lawn, you hooligans!" by age 30...

But there were still plenty of misses back then, as there are now.

The Lords of the Diamond inserts look nice in the base set, and the refractors are great.  The Chrome version leaves something to be desired though.  Unfortunately that thing is not the ability to be used as a fully functioning knife, though.  Those points are SHARP.  And of course nothing was more fun than serial numbering every single card, right?  Right, SPx and Topps Stars?  Of course Moments & Milestones acted like that was some kind of new concept (though that set did take it to annoying new heights).

The 90's Rangers were a fun team to watch, though obviously recent versions of the club have had more success.  Still, the team is just about the only thing out of Texas I like.  So it could be worse.

My miscellaneous binders are organized by team and division, so expect to see some more AL West cards in the future.  Perhaps some Angels cards with their ever changing logo, city, and name?

A Steelers Hodgepodge

I've written before that the addition of Penguins and Steelers cards to my collecting stable has made the hobby more interesting for me.  While Pirate cards will always be my primary collection, it has been fun to see the sets that come out in other sports.

One area where that really manifests itself is in a much more subtle area than card sets, or numbering of super shiny refractors.  One thing I have noticed is how much the photography changes when you get to hockey or football cards.

Sure some of that has to do with the manufacturers (and competition *gasp*) in other sports.  But theres something else.  Baseball is about repetition.  How well can a pitcher or batter repeat their delivery or swing?  Most ground balls or fly balls are going to look pretty much the same.  In short, there are only so many ways the game will "look" aside from the exceptional event.

But the other sports?  Well, when you have somebody actively trying to stop you from doing what you are doing (catching, tackling, passing, etc) it means the body will do some interesting things.
All these pickups came from a flea market trip a few weeks back.  At a dime a piece, I was able to score some nice cards that were well above and beyond you standard dime box fare.  Which of course was a welcome invitation to snag anything and everything that caught my eye.

Of course one of the other things that differentiates football is the celebrations.  While I don't disagree with the No Fun League title, it's hard to deny that most celebrations in football are more involved than most baseball ones.  Of course anything more than a fist pump after a homer will probably get you getting acquainted with a 94mph fastball your next time up.  In football, the celebrations come all to often, even on those most routine of plays.
But of course it's never allllll about photos.  Hell, perhaps the best part of 90's cards was all the other stuff going on with the card.  Is Kordell Stewart standing in the middle of some kind of metal plant explosion?

 But it wasn't all bad.  This Bowman parallel took customization to the next level, including Bettis' nickname on the back licenseplate.  Sure beats the current efforts, where manufacturers don't even designate parallels and refractors anymore.
 The adding legends to current sets fad has been doing on a decade plus now.  But it doesn't mean I'll get tired of seeing Rod Woodson back in black and gold.
 Speaking of which...this bumblebee card is just amazing.  The card is framed perfectly in the black parallel.  I may be one of the few, sick individuals who love these jerseys.
 And of course who doesn't love the boomerang players, who end up back with a team after a few years away.  Plaxico Burress may be done for good after an injury in training camp, but it was nice to see him back with the Steelers for a few games last year.  Even cooler to see that memorialized on cardboard.

 And of course you have the famous helmet seat.  It's not a pose I see too often, but I can think of at least 3 or 4 Rod Woodson cards in this exact same pose.  A Mirror Gold for a dime?  Gotta love flea markets.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big City Lights

As anyone who has ever lived in a city can tell you, there's just something about the city's skyline that becomes instantly recognizable.  As card designs have stagnated, skyline shots have become few and far between on cards.  Why go to the extra effort to include the city's personality when you can use generic images like flags or maps as the card background?

But one of my recent flea market excursions yielded some great skyline shots from the early 90's.  The backs of these cards have more creativity and effort put into them than most modern releases.  But c'este la vie.

Leaf was never one of my favorite products, but they absolutely killed the design in 1993-94 hockey (as the baseball set - not sure about football from that year.  The card backs feature two different skyline shots pretty much capturing the same angle of the skyline, one at night and the other during daylight.

Both shots look great, and reflect the city before the giant healthcare signs that now cover the top floors of the largest skyscrapers took over the city skyline.

The cards feature fantastic photography, and features the great 90's Pens unis. To top it off, the club still included many of the players from the Cup teams a few years earlier. And let's be honest - star power always helps a well designed card.

But football was able to get in on the action too.  The early 90's Pro Line sets featured some insanely cheesy photos of players out of their pads and in the heavily promoted sideline gear.  The cards just scream 90's.  And I love it.

This card of former TE Eric Green catches the city from the south end.  Just out of view on the left is the Point where the rivers meet to form the Ohio.  The card features a nice skyline shot, if you can look away from those terrifying zebra print shorts.  Oh, the 90's.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Group Break Goodies

(completely free and clear of Miley Cyrus references)

With what I posted earlier today, I would have been perfectly content if I walked away with just those hits for the $30 I spent on the break.  After all, group breaks are often a losing proposition.  To come away with not one but two autos?  Not a bad day.

But the cardboard gods smiled favorably upon me.  Things were just getting started.

This was card actually hit in the last box, but it's by far my favorite from the break.  I've had a bit of a cardboard crush on the wood minis since they were introduced in 2006 A&G.  Thing is that I've never been willing to shell out what the 1/1 would cost.  The Wood minis in Gypsy Queen are /5, so not quite the same pizazz as a 1/1.  But I'll gladly take it.  Russell Martin was by far one of my favorite Pirates this past season, so I couldn't ask for much more.

I already had the plain mini and black, so I may need to track down the green mini /50 to complete the mini rainbow.

Oddly enough while the break was very top heavy for me, there wasn't much in the way of lower end hits.  

I only added about a dozen new base cards, since I already had complete team sets from Gypsy Queen and only needed one common from Archives.  And aside from the Martin above, I was totally shut out on minis.  

Archives has quite a few Pirate inserts I'm missing.  I hit a pair of cards I needed, but they weren't any of the tougher ones.  Still, they're welcomed additions.

Really Topps?  You guys couldn't spend an extra 5 minutes in the archives to find a second photo of Parker to use?  Just.  Stay.  Positive.

The two boxes of Bowman Chrome we broke were largely disappointing.  With the insane number of refractor levels they've added to the product, I would have expected more hits.  But our boxes held just a couple of base refractors, a rookie reprint card, and one or two Cream of the Crop minis.  No fun and exciting color, leading me to assume Topps has cranked up the presses yet again this year.

Oh, but there was sooooome color to the box.


I've long professed my love of gold refractor Pirate cards on this blog.  But gold refractor autos always fall above what I'm willing to pay, with even some of the most flamed out ex-prospects selling in the $10-15 range.

But Glasnow is no flamed out prospect.  He won the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year award this past year, dropping an astounding 2.18 era with a 13.1 k/9 ration in low A at the tender age of 19.

It's tempting to sell, with completed auctions in the $100+ range.  But this card is just so nice.  I've always shied away from prospects (until they hit the bargain bin, that is), but Gladnow looks like he may be the real deal.  A 5th round pick, his 6'7 frame has the makings of a power pitcher.  Obviously he's still a long way from ever pitching an inning in a non-airbrushed black and gold uni.  But that is one niiiiice piece of cardboard.

Maybe I should keep on this group break kick.  Or buy a lottery ticket.  Luck seems to have turned in my favor lately.

And We Can't Stop (The Group Breaks), And We Won't Stop

 The group break insanity continues at Battlin Bucs.  And in case you were wondering, yes, I'm aware the cards in this post are in fact not Pirates cards.

This latest group break came from a group of team collectors I'm involved with.  We used to have a collector for every team, but as time goes by it's been pretty tough to replace lost members with quality participants.  The end result?  We were only able to cover 15 slots in the break, meaning everybody got a second team.

The ever faithful spit the Royals out my way.  Not my preferred choice, but I'm glad I didn't try to swap them for another team.

The break consisted almost entirely of 2013 products - Update, Chrome, Gypsy Queen - with a box of 2012 Opening Day thrown in for kicks.

The Royals slot was actually the lesser of the two teams, so I'll be back with the Pirates half later today.  Hint: there will be natural elements involved.  It's safe to say I absolutely killed the break - sorry guys!

The Mayberry auto is a keeper.  I think I sent a TTM request to him around 2004 or 2005 that was never heard from again, so I consider this some kind of karma.  I know the Archives product has been pretty weak since it came back, but I do want to add some of the autos on the secondary market one of these days.  The other auto out of the first box of Archives was Larry Bowa - a guy I have about a dozen TTM autos of.  Dodged a bullet there.
 The blogosphere goes nuts over update, and rightfully so.  It's always a safe bet for some fun or quirky cards of less than superstar names.  Miguel Tejada managed to resurrect his career for a brief time before a PED suspension.  I doubt many will remember the former A's MVP in another city the Athletics used to play in.
 Opening Day is far from an exciting product.  Or at least it was until 2013, when Topps really stepped it up and added some awesome inserts.  But these mascot cards take the cake as far as I'm concerned.  Who knew the Royals had a mascot?  More importantly...what the hell is that thing?
Insert, yes.  Celebration?  Debatable.  It looks more like a photo from a bench clearing brawl than a walkoff celebration.
 The photos in Gypsy Queen were among the highlights this year for me.  There are some absolutely amazing photos, only slightly ruined by the awkward photoshop effects.  I wonder if this one was initially an option to be in the Flagship Out of Bounds SP series?
 Bruce Chen is still a major league pitcher.  Anybody who followed baseball around the turn of the century should be absolutely amazed by that fact.  This one is binder hall of fame worthy.
 The Chasing History inserts are among my favorite in recent years.  But this was far from the best Saberhagen card of the break.  I also pulled a redemption for an Archives auto.  There are some live copies on ebay, so I'm pretty confident I'll be seeing the card in the near future.  Of the two boxes of Archives, I pulled two of the three autos (the second box was short an auto - thanks Topps!).  Oops.
Amazingly I didn't pull a single base mini of the Royals or Pirates.  But I did manage to hit two numbered minis.  This green James Shields is a cool card, but it'll probably be looking for a good home soon.

So there ya have it.  Some fun new cards for the Royals binder, and a couple of awesome new autos for the collection.  Pretty nice start, so the Bucs slot will have a tough act to follow.