Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Blog Update: Cards of Future Fenway Stars

To avoid any possible confusion between Sox Prospects' Cards and the website Sox Prospects, I have chosen to go with a new name, but same mission, for my new blog. So please check out Cards of Future Fenway Stars for news about minor league prospects and new releases from a Sox Prospector's perspective.

www.futurefenwaystars.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Blog: Sox Prospects' Cards

Please check out my new blog Sox Prospects' Cards for the most complete and up to date information on the card of the Boston Red Sox Top Prospect.

www.soxprospectscards.blogspot.com

Saturday, October 9, 2010

It's Been Awhile


It has been too long since I last posted, but I have had a very busy two months. Since last time that I wrote, I have gotten married, went on my honeymoon and started a new job. But, going forward, I plan on writing more regularly.


For card collectors that focus on baseball prospecting, this time of year is very exciting. Topps Pro Debut Series 2 was fantastic; 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition looks strong again, especially since DE3 has gone back to the 100 card base set after a 50 card DE3 base set in 2009; and soon 2010 Bowman Chrome will be released, with the promise of many more great prospect cards.


I just thought that I would briefly discuss some of my thoughts about these sets.
Thought #1: None of these sets include cards of super-prospect #1 Pick Bryce Harper. While Harper's absense should help to keep the cost of packs and boxes lower on the secondary market, his star power could have driven any of these sets to 2010 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects hype levels.
2010 Topps Pro Debut Series 2: The Futures Game Mega-Swatches are the highlights of the set. Although the Autograph list includes top prospects like Jesus Montero, the Mega-Swatches from some of the top prospects in the game, like Hank Conger, Ben Revere, Mike Trout, and Stolmy Pimentel (pictured at top), are what will keep people busting this wax. Although packs are a bit pricey, singles of prospects like Jose Iglesias, Lars Anderson, Kyle Gibson, Mike Moustakas, Austine Romine, and Bryce Brentz (heretofore known as "The Other Bryce") can be found for cheap.
2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition: Featuring an impressive list of 2010 draft picks, DE3 offers everything that a prospector could ask for (minus Bryce Harper that is).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Trip to the Big Sports Card & Autograph Show in Mansfield

Today I went to the Big Sports Card and Autograph Show at the Mansfield Holiday Inn, the first time that I’d been in a little over four years. To be honest, I didn’t really expect the trip to be too productive, but it was only about a half-mile from my apartment and I wanted to show my fiancĂ© what a card show was like. Plus, today the show was having a promotion that if you wore Red Sox or Bruins clothing you got in free.

So, we got to the Holiday Inn around 9 o’clock and walked to the ballroom where they were holding the show. At the door, the show’s organizers gave us two packages of cards, which I later opened and found 2010 Sage HIT Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mathews cards. Not bad for free.

When we entered the ballroom, there were probably already four or five dozen people there and close to fifty venders. Not having been there in awhile, we walked around the ballroom to get a general feel for what different venders were offering. There were a good number of vintage dealers, some dealers specializing in unopened boxes, lots of tables of high-end autographs, game-used and refractor cards, and some tables with boxes full of cards for 10-25 cents each.

Since I’m getting married in a few weeks and don’t have too much extra money to be spending on cards, I set a $20 budget for myself and wanted to get the most for my money, so I decided to dig through the cheap boxes and hope to find some gold. I found one seller who was selling 2008-2010 Bowman and other assorted cards for 25 cents each, 60 for $10, so I went to town.

$16.25 later, here’s what I got.

2010 Bowman Topps 100 Donavan Tate, Mike Moustakas (x2), Dustin Ackley, Mike Stanton (x2)

2010 Bowman Expectations Domonic Brown/Ryan Howard

2008 Razor Jordan Danks, Ike Davis (sold for $5.20), Brett Wallace and Jason Castro.

2009 Upper Deck Own the Rookies Shonn Greene, Jeremy Maclin, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Chris "Beanie" Wells, Josh Freeman, Percy Harvin.

2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition Sam Bradford (x2), Tim Tebow (x2) (sold for $8.60 each), Jimmy Clausen (x2), Rob Gronkowski, Tim Tebow Headliners, Sam Bradford Headliners, Tim Tebow/Jevan Snead Face to Face.

2009 Bowman Mat Latos (x2), Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hanson (x2), Chris Tillman (x3)

2007 Topps: Rookies of Phil Hughes, Adam Lind (x4), Miguel Montero (x2), Kevin Kouzmanoff (x4), Yunel Escobar (x2), Ryan Rowland-Smith (x2), Micah Owings (x3)

2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects Dominic Brown, Ivan Nova (x2)

2009 Upper Deck USA Star Prospects Garin Cecchini, Sean Coyle, Matt Newman, Connor Mason, Nick Pepitone, Asher Wojciechowski, Ladson Montgomery, Sonny Gray, Tony Zych.

2010 Topps Pro Debut Jared Mitchell

2009 Topps Platinum Chris “Beanie” Wells, Brian Cushing, Donald Brown, Rhett Bomar (refractor 096/499)

2009 Topps Unique Donald Brown (Red/Orange 434/799)

2007 Allen & Ginters Alexander Graham Bell (mini-A&G back), Jared Satalamacchia (black mini)

2009 TriStar Obak Mike Stanton mini

2009 Upper Deck Ultimate Legends Drew Bledsoe (287/375)

25 Ulta-Pro Toploaders

Overall, I am very pleased with my purchases, and am confident that I will be able to easily double my money re-selling these cards. I am especially happy with a number of the baseball prospect cards that I was able to pick up for a steal. I never cease to be amazed at the number of card dealers who do not take the time/effort to research the players before throwing them in junk boxes, and how few collectors and prospectors are willing to put in the time to dig through the boxes and find cardboard gold.

However, the most interesting part of my card show experience came when I was digging through the boxes trying to get to 60 cards when a younger collector, probably 17 to 20 years old, came over to the table where I was going through the box and tried to sell his NSA Tiger Woods/Michael Jordan dual relic card. He told the dealer that he had bought the card at Target for $50 and was looking to sell it for $50. The dealer kind of looked at it funny and said that he had never heard of the company. So I chimed in, "Do either of you read the blog, "Sports Cards Uncensored?" They both looked at me like I had 5 heads. "Well, it is one of the best blogs on the intenet, and the guy who writes it did a thing a couple months ago about how most of the NSA stuff is definately fake. I wouldn't touch the stuff." The dealer quickly handed the card back to the kid, and said that he wasn't interested. Later, when I was still looking through the boxes, another guy came over with a Chris Johnson Topps Rookie Premier Auto card. I decided that I couldn't do all of the dealers research for him, so I didn't bother mentioning how all of those are fakes, too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Michael Bowden called-up to Boston


Just days after adding a "Michael Bowden Mania" page to the Pessimist Card Collector, the Boston Red Sox have promoted 23-year old Michael Bowden, the Red Sox 2005 first round pick who was recently converted from a starter to a reliever, from AAA Pawtucket. To see my collection of autographed Michael Bowden cards, check out Michael Bowden Mania.

Good luck Michael!

Friday, July 16, 2010

2008 TriStar PROjections Red Sox and Yankees- Final Thoughts

I was a fan of 2008 TriStar PROjections well before I bought these eight boxes. In fact, I believe that 2008 TriStar PROjections is the best modern-day minor league baseball card set produced. The clean, sleek design that is both visually appealing and great for autographs puts the set in a league of its own, in my mind.

Although I already had the complete set and have gotten close to 50 cards signed, I jumped at the opportunity to buy and open these boxes for $38.00, which I thought and still do think was a steal. These were the first packs of cards that I have opened since last December and it was a fun time pulling multiples of Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, Jesus Montero, Jose Tabata, Michael Bowden, Ryan Kalish and Lars Anderson.

As an added benefit, as I mentioned in the video, these boxes contained exclusive variation cards from the regular set, including cards of top prospects Justin Masterson, Ryan Dent, Will Middlebrooks, Bubba Bell, Oscar Tejada, Nick Hagadone, Zach McCallister, and Arodys Vizcaino. Furthermore, the team boxes were the only places to find 2008 TriStar PROjections cards for Andrew Brackman, Drew Sublett, Chase Weems and Mark Wagner.

As for hits, I was more than happy to pull autographed cards of Yankees #1 prospect Jesus Montero and rising Red Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo. In addition, David Robertson is already a member of the Yankees bullpen and Bryce Cox was once projected to be the Red Sox closer.

While TriStar and similar minor league-based sets may not appeal to everyone, it is the perfect set for any prospector or minor league autograph collector. I could not be happier with my purchase and my pulls.








Thursday, July 15, 2010

2008 TriStar PROjections Red Sox and Yankees Box Breaks (Hit City Installment)

For your viewing pleasure...the best boxes of 2008 TriStar PROjection I opened...


video

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

2008 TriStar PROjections Red Sox and Yankees Box Breaks (Installment One)

Boxes One and Two...Two more installments to come. Hope that you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed ripping it!

video

The Deal: 8 Boxes of 2008 TriStar PROjections (5 Boston Prospects, 3 New York Prospects).

Box Breakdown: 5 packs of 7 cards. 1 autograph of team prospect in each box.

Cost: Purchased Buy It Now on eBay from silvertownelp on July 6, 2010 for $3.50 a box and shipped together for $7.95.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Autograph Updates- 5.28.10

video

Enjoy, and let me know if you've had any look getting some great autographs this season!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Pitchers




For Justin Masterson and Clay Buchholz, when one is having the best of times, the other is having the worst of times. Pitching on Monday, Buchholz and Masterson were again heading in opposite directions. By surrendering four runs to the Chicago White Sox in the first inning, assembling a high pitch count and being forced out after pitching only four innings, Cleveland’s Justin Masterson earned his eleventh consecutive losing decision and extended his winless streak to 16 starts dating back to August 20, 2009. At the same time, in Boston, Buchholz tossed six innings, striking out 8 Tampa Bay Rays and allowing only one run, collecting his 12th win since August 19th of last year.

What makes that situation so remarkable is that two years ago the situation was almost the exact opposite for the former teammates when they were both members of the Boston Red Sox. Clay Buchholz was selected with the 42nd overall pick in the supplemental portion of the first round in the 2005 draft out of Angelina College in Texas and Masterson was selected by the Red Sox a year later with the 71st overall pick in the second round of the draft out of San Diego State.

By spring training of 2007, both Buchholz and Masterson had shown their promise in the Boston farm system and were seen as top prospects in the organization. During the 2007 seasons, both Buchholz and Masterson met and exceeded the organizations expectations, with Masterson earning a promotion from High A Lancaster to AA Portland and Buchholz scaling the organization ladder from Portland to AAA Pawtucket to a late season call-up to Boston. While with the big club, Buchholz showed why scouts were so high on him by throwing a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles on September 1 in just his second Major League start.

Entering the 2008 season, Masterson and Buchholz were unquestionably the top two pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization. After his spectacular performance in Boston at the end of the 2007 season, Buchholz was awarded a place in the Red Sox starting rotation on Opening Day while Masterson began the season with the Portland Sea Dogs. From that point, their seasons went in opposite directions. For Buchholz, 2008 could not have been much worse. As a starter for the Red Sox, Buchholz went 2-9, with a 6.75 ERA in 16 games, eventually being demoted all the way back to Portland. In the meantime, Masterson flourished, being promoted directly from Portland to Boston to make an emergency start on April 24 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Masterson spend most of the rest of the season with Boston, pitching as both a starter and reliever as the team needed him and earning his first postseason win in Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.

In 2009, the positions of Masterson and Buchholz had reversed. While Masterson broke spring training as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Buchholz was assigned to Pawtucket to show that he still had the talent that he had shown in 2007 and made so many fans and scouts believe that he would be a permanent fixture in the Red Sox rotation for years to come. Fortunately, both Masterson and Buchholz started the season off well. Buchholz bounced back from his disappointing 2008 season to dominate International League batters while Masterson was a reliable bullpen arm for the Red Sox. By mid-July, Buchholz earned a promotion back to Boston and showed that he belonged there, finishing the year 7-4 with a 4.21 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Masterson, on the other hand, was traded, along with top pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Catcher Victory Martinez at the trade deadline. Working as a starter for Cleveland, Masterson had a 4.55 ERA in 57 1/3 innings pitched with little run support, going 1-7.

Now, with almost two months of the 2010 season in the record books, Clay Buchholz is on the top of the world while Justin Masterson has struggled to find any success. While Buchholz is making the case that he is the Ace in a rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey, Indians Manager Manny Acta has suggested that the Indians may return Masterson to the bullpen in the hope that he can once again find success as a relief pitcher that has eluded him as a starter.

Personally, I hope and believe that Masterson and Buchholz can end their career seesaw routine and both find success as major league pitchers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Justin Masterson: A Diamond in the Rough

Simply looking at his win-loss record, it would be easy to give up on Justin Masterson. The Akron Beacon Journal recently featured a story about Masterson with the title, “Pitcher’s futility streak goes on.” Beginning the season 0-4 to extending his winless streak to 14 starts dating back to last August, many observers have concluded that the Justin Masterson as a starter experiment has failed and that it is time for him to return to the bullpen. But, if you go deeper into the numbers, it is possible to conclude that rather than being a mediocre starter, Masterson might just be the unluckiest pitcher in baseball.

Justin Masterson is among the league leaders in a number of statistical categories that more accurately reflect what a pitcher is doing, rather than whether or not he has a good team behind him. For example, Masterson is one of only seven starters in the majors to average a 10 or more strike outs per nine innings(K/9), a list that, in addition to Masterson, includes Brandon Morrow, Tim Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Clayton Kershaw, Yovani Gallardo and Tommy Hanson. In addition, Masterson boasts a league leading 3.53 groundball to fly ball ratio, attracting groundballs on 58.8% of balls in play as opposed to line drives on only 24.6% of balls in play. Unfortunately, mostly as a result of a poor defense behind him, he has a league leading .412 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Making matters worse for Masterson is that he receives the leagues seventh lowest run support at 2.61 runs per nine innings.

The Cleveland Indians are clearly not a good team, but rather than being the goat that he is being made out to be by the Ohio media, Masterson might just be the diamond in the rough that the Indians thought he was when they traded Victory Martinez to the Red Sox for him and young prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price last July.



Personally, I have not lost an ounce of faith in Masterson's ability to be a dominant pitcher in the Major Leagues, whether it be as a starter or a reliever, although I am wondering what happened to the TTM cards I sent him over a month ago now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Autographed Cards Update, Take Two

video

Hoping that you enjoy the videos and crossing my fingers that I will be showing off my autographed Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen cards next weekend!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Still taking 50/50 Autograph Deals for Pawtucket Red Sox

I posted this before, but just in case anyone missed it last time around, I am happy to do 50/50 autograph deals for the following players.

Over the past year, I have built quite a collection of minor league baseball autographs. During that time, I have been introduced to the concept of 50/50 autograph deals. For those of you who are not familiar with the system, here's how it works. If you have cards of a player that you would like to get signed, but do not have the opportunity to get them signed yourself, you seek out a person who frequently gets autographs from that player's team, send them cards and then split however many cards they get signed.

For example, if you had 4 Bubba Bell cards that you would like to get signed, you could send them to me with a self addressed stamped envelope to return them, I would get them signed, and then return 2 signed cards to you and keep 2 for myself.

As of right now, I am willing to go 50/50 (maximum of 10 cards per player) for the following members of the Pawtucket Red Sox...

Dustin Richardson
Mark Wagner
Dusty Brown
Lars Anderson (only 2009 TriStar Projections and any Just Minors cards for now)
Gustavo Molina
Torey Llullo
Gerald Perry
Randor Bierd
Fernando Cabrera
Fabio Castro
Robert Manuel
Adam Mills
Joe Nelson
Ramon A. Ramirez
Tug Hulett
Jorge Jimenez
Ryan Khoury
Angel Sanchez
Bubba Bell

If anyone is interested in 50/50 with me for any of those Paw Sox, please leave a comment and/or email me at georgebianchijr@gmail.com

Remember, although I will make every effort to get as many cards signed as I can, and, as seen in my videos, I do get quite a few cards signed, success is never a guarentee. In the event that I cannot get the cards signed, they will be returned. Please contact me if you're interested.

Monday, May 3, 2010

In Person and Through the Mail Autographs from April 2010

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Sorry about the extra footage of me trying to stop the recording. My webcam decided that it didn't want to stop, so you get to see my puzzled face as I kept hitting the stop button until I gave up and ended the whole program. I thought about re-shooting the cards, but I decided to just go with the raw and un-cut version of me and my autograph collection.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What the heck am I doing with this blog?

As you can tell by reading this blog, I don’t really know what the heck I am doing with this blog. So far, my blog has been a collection of posts about Red Sox prospects, why I hate exclusive licensing deals, some of my thoughts about player collecting and why I think that buying singles makes more sense, financially, than busting wax. Having spent the last few months as a regular reader of a number of great card blogs, I have found multiple blogs that focus on one of those topics individually, but few that are characterized by an apparent fetish of having no overarching raison d’ĂȘtre like mine.

Having been a part-time blogger for nearly two months now, I don’t entirely know what to make of my blog. To be honest, my original reason for blogging was to serve as a form of social media to promote by Amazon.com store, George’s Card Shop. But, concluding that business was going about as well as could be hoped and seeing no benefit of bugging past and/or future customers with my musings about sports and card collecting, I soon abandoned that idea. Giving up on that plan, I decided that I would blog in private for a few months, figure out what the hell I was doing, and then reveal my work to the world once I was confident that my blog could compete with the best. But, for the better, I think, some people stumbled upon the blog and I have been trying to learn on the fly and improve my blog with every post.

So, for now, I have decided to continue doing what I have been doing: writing and recording videos about Red Sox minor league prospects, collecting autographs, player collecting and card prospecting. Tell me what you think. Is what I am writing worth reading? What is the most interesting? What is the least interesting? Is there an aspect of card collecting that is not covered or not covered well enough in the card blogosphere that I should concentrate on?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Pleasures and Frustrations of a Player Collector



If I had to declare what type of card collector I am, I would probably have to say that I am a player collector. With so many sets coming out every year, collectors have to settle on some sort of collecting strategy or they will end up like a kid on a sugar-high running after every shiny thing that catches his eye. For me, that strategy is putting together the best Justin Masterson and Daniel Bard player collections that I can.

A few months ago, over at Sports Cards Uncensored, Gellman discussed How Competitive Personalities Affect Our Collections. In the article, Gellman looked at how the competitive personalities of many collectors impact the card industry and our personal collections.

For me, what makes player collecting an interesting part of the hobby is the fact that every collection is unique. For example, there are as many collecting possibilities as there are players. Considering how many players there are for collectors to select from, it is fascinating to see who people choose to collect, what cards they acquire, how much they are willing to pay for them and when the collecting mission is accomplished. Making matters more complicated is the reality that some player collections are more difficult to assemble than others. For example, it is a lot easier, and cheaper, to collect every card, or almost every card, of Daniel Bard or Justin Masterson than it is to collect every card of Albert Pujols or Derek Jeter.

Furthermore, the proliferation of game-used relic cards, autographed cards, autographed relic cards, and low-numbered/refractor varieties of almost every card creates new challenges and opportunities for collectors. Most importantly: when can you say that you have every card of a player? Can you say that you have every card if you have every base card? What about every base and chrome version of every card? What about refractors? Do you need to assemble the refractor rainbow for every card to truly complete your collection? What role do 1 of 1 cards have in player collections?

To be honest, I think that there are as many answers to those questions as there are player collections, and there is no one right answer. Factor in the difficulty and expense of collecting some players, and any neat or cookie cutter answer goes out the window. For example, while it is relatively easy and inexpensive to collect every refractor, game-used, and autographed card of Daniel Bard or Justin Masterson, Pujols and Jeter collectors would be lucky to pick up one autographed card of their favorite player in their collecting lifetime. That financial reality creates different expectations for each player collection.

Nonetheless, there are few feelings in the life of a card collector quite as satisfying as adding a new card to your player collection, especially if it is one that you have had your eyes on for awhile. Let me know if you have a player collection and/or what you think about player collections.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Red Sox Prospecting

Now that baseball season has begun, I will provide a bi-weekly report on the top prospects in the Red Sox organization to look at whose hot and their newest cards. Today, I offer the five prospects that are off to the best starts in the 2010 season.

#1. Lars Anderson, 1B, AA Portland (.316 BA, .381 OPB, 1.013 OPS, 3 HR)

2010 Topps Pro Debut
After a disappointing 2009 season at AA Portland and a sub-par spring training performance with the big league club, Lars is off to a great start in 2010. Written off by some fans at the end of last year as a bust at 22 years-old, Lars has regained his form that made him Baseball America's #1 Prospect in the Red Sox organization before the 2009 season. If Lars maintains his hot bat, look to see him earn a promotion to AAA Pawtucket in May and get a look at Fenway sometime this year.

#2 Stolmy Pimentel, SP, High A Salem (2-0, 1.64 ERA, .158 BAA, 11 IP, 8 K)
2009 Bowman
Beginning his third professional season in the United States and still only 20 years-old, Stolmy continues to wow scouts and fans with his stuff and maturity on the mound. With a number of talented pitchers in the high minors, Pimentel is likely to spend most, of not all, of 2010 in Salem as the Red Sox continue to be patient with the young righty. However, if the Red Sox look to trade for a big slugger like Adrian Gonzalez in mid-season, Pimentel could very well be one of the prospects to go. In that case, he could see time at AA, AAA, or even get a Cup of Coffee in the majors by seasons end. The sky is the limit on Pimentel's potential, it is just a question of when.

#3 Oscar Tejada, SS, High A Salem (.375 BA, .381 OBP, .981 OPS, 2 HR, 3 SB)
2009 Bowman Sterling
Like his teammate Pimentel, Oscar Tejada is only 20 years-old and is dominating Carolina League competition. Often overlooked after a mediocre 2009 campaign in Single A Greenville and taking a back seat to fellow Red Sox minor league middle infielders like Jose Iglesias, Derrik Gibson, Yamaico Navarro, and Ryan Dent, Tejada has been the spark in Salem's line-up and attracted the eyes of a number of scouts. In a pure numbers game, it looks as through Tejada will remain in Salem for most of the year, unless, again, he is involved in an anticipated Red Sox blockbuster deal for Adrian Gonzalez.


#4 Casey Kelly, SP, AA Portland (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 4 K, .238 BAA)
2010 Topps Pro Debut
Despite his small sample size and restrictive pitch count, it is difficult to overlook Casey's ability and leave him off the list. At only 20 years-old, and with only half a season of professional pitching at Single A Greenville and High A Salem, Kelly is off to an impressive start against Eastern League batters. As the Red Sox take off some of Kelly's training wheels, look for him to continue to dominate and show why the Red Sox are so high on him.


#5 Anthony Rizzo, 1B, High A Salem (.313 BA, .370 OBP, .500 SLG, .870 OPS, 2 HR)
2009 Tristar PROjections
The only question for Rizzo is how long Anderson will continue to block his promotion to AA Portland. After an impressive 2009 season split between Greenville and Salem, Rizzo has kept up his impressive performance at the plate and in the field in 2010. Often overlooked by prospect evaluators, Rizzo is gaining fans and admirers with every at-bat.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Now Accepting 50/50 Autograph Deals

Over the past year, I have built quite a collection of minor league baseball autographs. During that time, I have been introduced to the concept of 50/50 autograph deals. For those of you who are not familiar with the system, here's how it works. If you have cards of a player that you would like to get signed, but do not have the opportunity to get them signed yourself, you seek out a person who frequently gets autographs from that player's team, send them cards and then split however many cards they get signed.

For example, if you had 4 Bubba Bell cards that you would like to get signed, you could send them to me with a self addressed stamped envelope to return them, I would get them signed, and then return 2 signed cards to you and keep 2 for myself.

As of right now, I am willing to go 50/50 (maximum of 10 cards per player) for the following members of the Pawtucket Red Sox...

Dustin Richardson
Mark Wagner
Dusty Brown (John, 2 cards, Dallas, TX)
Gustavo Molina
Torey Llullo
Gerald Perry
Randor Bierd
Fernando Cabrera
Fabio Castro (Kevin, 4 cards, Berwick, PA)
Robert Manuel
Adam Mills
Joe Nelson
Ramon A. Ramirez
Kevin Frandsen (Mike, 6 cards, San Jose, CA)
Tug Hulett
Jorge Jimenez
Ryan Khoury
Angel Sanchez
Bubba Bell

If anyone is interested in 50/50 with me for any of those Paw Sox, please leave a comment and/or email me at georgebianchijr@gmail.com

Remember, although I will make every effort to get as many cards signed as I can, and, as seen in my videos, I do get quite a few cards signed, success is never a guarentee. In the event that I cannot get the cards signed, they will be returned. Please contact me if you're interested.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Autographs from Paw Sox Opening Weekend

video

Autographs from the Paw Sox opening weekend against the Rochester Red Wings (AAA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins) and the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies).

Let me know what you think, or if you're having any luck with autographs this spring.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

He's going to be in Portland next year

If you are not citizens of Red Sox Nation, or you are a member of the Nation, but do not follow the Sox minor league system, you have probably never heard of Ryan Westmoreland.

For starters: Ryan Westmoreland is a 19-year-old outfielder who was ranked as the #1 Prospect in the Red Sox Minor League system by Baseball America entering the 2010 season. A left- handed batter and right-handed thrower, Westmoreland was seleccted in the 5th round of the 2008 draft by the Boston Red Sox from Portsmouth High School in Rhode Island. Originally planning on attending Vanderbilt, Westmoreland received a $2,000,000 bonus and played his first season of professional baseball in 2009, hitting .296, with a .401 OBP and .484 SLG for the Short-Season Lowell Spinners.
According to Baseball America, given that "His skills are just as impressive as his considerable tools," it was hard to temper expectations on Westmoreland and projected that Ryan was "a potential 30-30 player who one day could bat third in the Boston lineup." Ryan was projected to begin the season at Class A Greenville, and likely earn a promotion to the High A Salem Red Sox by the season's end.
Unfortunately, now it is an open question whether or not Ryan will ever play baseball again. During spring training, it was discovered that Ryan had a cavernous malformation in his brain. He underwent surgery to remove the malformation on March 16 in Arizona and has now begun his long road to recovery.
Whether or not Ryan ever returns to baseball, it looks clear that his life is no longer in danger, which is certainly the most important thing. But Westmoreland isn't satisfied with that, and has dedicated himself to realizing the potential that made Baseball America project him as one of the top prospects in baseball, telling his father "I'm going to be in Portland next year," a reference to the home of the Portland Sea Dogs, the AA-affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
I, for one, do not doubt Ryan's willpower or committment and I am almost certain that he will regain his elite skills in time to return to play in the 2011 season. For now, it is just good to see him out and about and in good spirits. Ryan was seen at Fenway Park for the Red Sox opening day game against the New York Yankees in GM Theo Epstein's box.

Here's a picture of Westmoreland on Opening Night...
Now, for some of Ryan's cards...
2008 TriStar Prospects Plus
2008 Razor
2010 Topps Pro Debut
2010 Topps Pro Debut Single-A All-Stars

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Topps Pro Debut is a Big League Product

When it was announced that Topps would be the exclusive producer of Minor League Baseball trading cards for the 2010 season, I was a little skeptical. It is my firmly held belief, proven by experience, that the more companies there are competing in a free-market, the better the results. My worries deepened after Topps released their Baseball Series 1 in January, with some disappointing card designs.

Fortunately, Topps Pro Debut exceeded all of my expectations, and truly hit Minor League Baseball cards out of the park. As fond as I have grown for TriStar cards in the past few years, 2010 Topps Pro Debut may be the best designed and executed Minor League Baseball set ever.

The set offers cards of some of the best prospects in baseball, including Casey Kelly, Jesus Montero, Pedro Alvarez, Drew Storen and Brett Wallace. The photography is exceptional and the cards feature the same sleek and clean design as the 2010 Topps Major League cards.

Here is the 2010 Topps Pro Debut Casey Kelly...

But what really sets 2010 Topps Pro Debut a cut above any other recent Minor League baseball card set is the Futures Game relic cards. These cards boast enormous cuts of game-used jersey from the top prospects in the game and are a must have for any player collector.
Unfortunately, while the set does include great cards of some of the top prospects, it does not include cards of all of the top prospects. Collectors will be sad to note that Topps Pro Debut does not offer cards of any players who did not play in affiliated Rookie, A, High A, AA or AAA league baseball in 2010. As a result, you will not find cards for late-signing 2009 draft picks like Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, Brandon Tate or from top Cuban-defectors like Aroldis Chapman and Jose Iglesias.
While I understand that contract limitations may have prevented Topps from producing NCAA and Team USA uniform cards of those players, they could have used photos from the Arizona Fall League for Strasburg, Ackley and Iglesias, and Cuban team photos, like those found in 2009 Topps WBC products, for Chapman and Iglesias. Now that Topps is the exclusive producer of Team USA cards beginning this season, I hope that the 2011 Topps Pro Debut set can offer cards from all of the top prospects, and not just those who played in affiliated summer ball.
In addition, while the majority of Topps Pro Debut features great game-action photography, some cards are less exciting and look 2008 TriStar Prospects Plus-esque. For example, the 2010 Topps Pro Debut Stephen Fife looks just as un-inspired as his Prospects Plus card.

Overall, 2010 Topps Pro Debut is an excellent set. The game-used relics alone make the set a success and the prospect cards are sure to be great investments. Congratulations Topps, and I certainly look forward to Topps Pro Debut becoming a staple set for years to come.

Friday, March 26, 2010

First Video, Bard and Masterson Auto Collections

This is my first video, let me know what you think.

video

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sage HIT is live, awesome and probably done

Although the trading card blogosphere is usually more interested in high-end products, I think that some of the best football cards released every year are the stable Rookie-focused sets released in March and April before the draft. For me, Sage HIT and Press Pass football cards are a sign that spring has sprung and it is time to prepare my mock draft.

Unfortunately, not all niche products are created equal. From year to year, Sage HIT and Press Pass cards can be good, bad, or ugly. I am happy to announce that this year's Sage HIT is good.

To commemorate this good release, let's take a walk down HIT memory lane from 2000 to 2010...





Unfortunately, 2010 Sage HIT may be the end of the line. As of April 1, 2010, Upper Deck will be the exclusive licensee of collegiate trading cards after signing a multi-year agreement with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which represents more than 200 colleges and universities. That exclusive rights contract, similar to the contract that Topps has with MLB, should make it difficult for Press Pass and Sage to continue to produce cards of the top collegiate players and prospects. At the very least, it is almost certain that Sage and Press Pass will be forced to airbrush out any identifiable team logos.
While I won't dispute that, for the most part, Upper Deck makes better cards that Press Pass or Sage, it will still be sad to see them go. In addition to the basic fact that competition makes all card manufacturers better, Sage HIT and Upper Deck provided a number of things that, to this point, Upper Deck and Topps have not. For example, Sage HIT and Press Pass featured cards from a number of top college players that Topps and Upper Deck ignored because they were not NFL prospects. In addition, Press Pass' on-card autos were much better than the sticker autographs that Topps and Upper Deck featured, even in their highest-end products.
What makes this exclusive rights deal even more disappointing is the pathetic reasoning that the CLC is giving for their decision. According David Kirkpatrick, CLC's Vice President of Non-Apparel Marketing, granting Upper Deck the exclusive rights to produce collegiate cards "will place a renewed focus on collegiate accomplishments in addition to a student-athlete's post-collegiate potential." According to Kirkpatrick, "there are many opportunities in the collegiate trading card category that have not been fully realized, and Upper Deck shares our vision for expansion."
Of course, Kirkpatrick's explanation is logically false, per se. By contracting the number of licensed producers of collegiate trading cards, the CLC and Upper Deck are by definition decreasing, not expanding the opportunities for collectors of collegiate trading cards.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18 TTM

Today in the mail I received a few great TTM autographs from two players: two from Justin Masterson and one from Pat Neshek.

Justin Masterson was my first ever TTM success, and has never let me down since. I am now 6/6 with TTM autographs from Masterson since last August. This is the quickest turnaround that I have had with Masterson thus far, taking less than two weeks from when I sent them out to when I received them.


A lot of baseball insiders think that Masterson could have a breakout season for Cleveland in 2010. This will be his first season where he will begin the season as a regular starter, slated to be #3 in the Indians rotation. However, taking into consideration that Jake Westbrook missed all of last season with an injury and Fausto Carmona has been inconsistent in recent season, Masterson could very well be the best and most reliable arm in Cleveland this season. Send him your cards now and beat the rush!


Next, Pat Neshek. Pat is interesting because, in addition to being a very reliable TTM signer and having a cool autograph, he is also an autograph collector and has his own website, On The Road With Pat Neshek, dedicated to his collection and his career. I highly reccomend checking out his site, and sending him some cards.


I'll keep you posted as I get more autographs in the future.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Autographs from Boston's Young Guns

As the Opening Day gets closer, I felt like sharing some autographs that I have collected over the past year from some of the Red Sox top young arms.

First, someone that every Sox fan should be familiar with, Clay Buchholz. After a rough 2008 in Boston, when he failed to live up to the expectations from his 2007 No-Hitter, Clay was sent to AAA Pawtucket to work on his pitching until the Sox felt that he was ready to handle Major Leagues competition. Buchholz was dominant in Pawtucket in 2009 and finally got the opportunity to join the Red Sox in late July to replace an injured Tim Wakefield.


Clay was a pretty good signer at Pawtucket, especially considering that he could have had a chip on his shoulder from being sent back down to the minors. I was 3/3 in getting his autograph when I tried, and they all came out pretty nice. I like this one best because of the way that he took up the whole card with his signature.

Next up, Daniel Bard. Bard is best known for being the 100-mph+ flamethrower out of the Red Sox bullpen and the heir-apparent closer if Jonathan Papelbon is traded or leaves in free-agency.


Although Bard spent less than 2 months in Pawtucket before being called up, I managed to get this 2008 TriStar Projections card signed one night after a game. He was very gracious and signed for the few of us that waited for him on a chilly April evening. On a sour note, I sent him a card last August TTM and have not gotten it back yet, but I haven't given up all hope yet.

Now it's Kelly Time. Casey Kelly is the uber-prospect that the Red Sox snatched away from the University of Tennessee, where he was recruited to play baseball and Quarterback for the Volunteers. Next, the Red Sox had to persuade Kelly to give up his desire to play shortstop in favor of taking the mound, where he has found much more success at Single A Greenville and Salem.



Kelly is expected to begin the season as a starter at AA Portland. I got this card signed at the Paw Sox Hot Stove Party in January, where Kelly was the main attraction and a great signer. Here's hoping that he makes his way to Pawtucket this season and continues to be an enthusiastic authographer.

Lastly, I have included two other pitching prospects who, although not as highly ranked as Kelly is, have shown very good stuff at times: Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa.

I am very bullish on Bowden, and think that he will become a very reliable 3rd or 4th starting pitcher for some team in the future, in the mold of Jeff Suppan. Michael has spent the last year or so re-tooling his delivery, and struggled at times last year, especially against MLB competition.

Nevertheless, I really hope that he can find a permanent home in some major league rotation because he seems like a very nice person. This is one of the 8 autographs that I got from him last season, and I am trying to get 1 of everyone of his rookie cards signed before he cuts me off.


Finally, Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa is interesting because last year was his first season of professional baseball. The Sox signed Tazawa straight out of the Japanese Industrial League and he was so impressive that he began the year at AA Portland, became an EL All-Star, and was earned promotions to Pawtucket and Boston. Junichi seemed to wear down towards the end of the last year, and finished the season on the DL. In the offseason, he worked on stength and conditioning to hopefully improve his endurance for a full-season of pitching.



For a highly-regarded prospect whose autograph sells for oodles on eBay, Tazawa is a fantastic signer. Unfortunately, his only card out last year was his Portland Sea Dogs teamset until this TriStar Obak came out after the season ended and an Upper Deck Ultimate Collection was released in January. I got this signed card signed at the Paw Sox Hot Stove Party in January.
Hope you enjoyed my collection, please tell me what you think about these prospects, your autographs or anything else in the comments section.



Sunday, March 14, 2010

Autographs from Boston's Future Outfield

I thought that I would take the time to share my autographs today from two of the Red Sox' top prospects that look poised to capture starting outfield positions by the 2011 or 2012 seasons: Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish. Both 2006 Red Sox draft picks, Kalish was selected in the 9th round from Red Bank Catholic High School (NJ.) and Josh Reddick in the 17th round from Middle Georgia College.

Twenty-three year-old Josh Reddick is slightly ahead of Kalish developmentally, playing for AA Portland, AAA Pawtucket and Boston last season. After starting off hot in Portland, Josh was promoted directly to Boston as an injury replacement where he showed flashes of brilliance immediately. Unfortunately, late in the season, the patience at the plate that Reddick had improved to earn his promotions seemed to disappear and he finished the year hitting .127 in Pawtucket and .169 in Boston.

Fortunately, Reddick has regained his patient approach at the plate in Spring Training and has been crushing Grapefruit League pitching, hitting .476 average, .500 OBP, .762 SLG and 1.262 OPS over 8 games and 21 at-bats. Although Reddick will start the season at AAA Pawtucket, it looks like he should be contributing at Fenway before long.



I got this card signed after a Paw Sox game in late August. Josh is an infrequent signer, but that night he signed 2 cards for everyone who waited. Hope that he is ready to sign many, many more this season at McCoy.

Ryan Kalish, who will be twenty-two on opening day, began last season with High-A Salem before being promoted early to AA Portland. Despite early struggles against AA pitcher, Kalish finished the year with a .271 BA and 13 HR, being named the Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year. Kalish kept that momentum going in the Arizona Fall League, batting .310 for Mesa.



Ryan had a very productive stint in the Grapefruit League, hitting .267 with a .467 OBP over 7 games and 11 at bats before being reassigned to Minor League Spring Training. It seems likely that Kalish will break camp with the Sea Dogs, but could earn a quick promotion to AAA Pawtucket if he continues to play well.

In addition, Ryan was recently crowned the winner of the Red Sox Foundation charity benefit "Dancing with the New Stars" competition, edging out fellow prospects and dancers Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden and Mark Wagner. If you have 1 minute and 50 seconds, I promise that it will not disappoint.

Ryan Kalish's autographed 2008 TriStar Projections will always have a special place in my collection because it is the first autograph that I have ever got from a player that is younger than me. I got it before the Sea Dogs played the Bowie Bay Sox at the Futures at Fenway game in August of 2009.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First TTM Successes of the Year

Good news to report, I have received by first through the mail autographs of the year and they are from two of my favorite young pitchers.

I didn't start trying to get autographs through the mail until last season, when I sent out a 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter to Justin Masterson and got it back in about a month. Then, I sent him a 2008 Tristar Projections, and got it back in about a month again. Well, this spring I went back to a sure thing and sent him a 2009 Topps T-206 and here is the payoff...


I got this card back in about 2 1/2-3 weeks. A very nice signature with his trademark PHIL 4:13 below his autograph. Justin is an up-and-coming pitcher for Cleveland after being traded for Victor Martinez last July at the trade deadline and a great signer. I currently have his 2005 Bowman Draft Pick and 2008 Topps in the mail, I'll let you know when/if I get them back.

Next, I got back a signed 2009 Bowman RC from another one of my favorite young pitchers: Michael Bowden. Ranked as Boston's #2 overall prospect by Baseball America before last season, Bowden had an up-and-down season last year, but looks poised for a breakout 2010 season. While playing for Pawtucket last season, Bowden was an autograph-signing machine. He is a great guy and I was very happy to get this card from him.


I sent out this card on the same day that I sent the Masterson card out and got it back on the same day. Pretty cool coincidence, I think. As you can see, Michael personalized the autograph for me, which is kind of cool because he has never done that when I have gotten him in person, and added his Boston number, 64.

That's all for now, but I'll keep you posted on more of my TTM and in-person autograph successes throughout the season.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If you are busting wax, you're probably wasting your money

The blogosphere is full of collectors complaining that big-ticket products like Topps Triple Threads and Bowman Sterling are ripe for disappointing buyers. What gets less attention is the fact that low-end products are just as much a poor way to spend your money, no matter what you're hoping to get out of them.

Let's discuss the reasons why people bust a box:

1. Game-Used and Autographed Cards.
2. Hot Rookies.
3. Set Collectors.

For every one of those reasons, you can get what you want, guaranteed, for cheaper on eBay any day of the week.

For the purpose of this discussion, let's use 2010 Topps Series 1. According to Topps, each Hobby Box contains 1 Autograph or Relic Card and each Jumbo Hobby Box contains 1 Autograph and 2 Relic Cards. On March 11, a Topps 2010 Series 1 Hobby Box was selling for $68.90 while a 2010 Topps Jumbo Hobby Box was selling for $107.99 on Blowoutcards.com.




Let's consider how valuable those Autograph and Relic Cards are. Over the past few weeks I have been assembling a collection of 2010 Topps Peak Performance Relics cards of my favorite Boston Red Sox players. Here is what I paid for them on eBay, including shipping.

2010 Topps Peak Performance Jersey (Red) Jonathan Papelbon: $3.18
2010 Topps Peak Performance Jersey (Red) David Ortiz: $4.50
2010 Topps Peak Performance Bat Kevin Youkilis: $4.34
2010 Topps Peak Performance Bat Dustin Pedroia: $4.24
2010 Topps Peak Performance Autograph Daniel Bard: $8.25




As you can see, for a mere $24.51 I have assembled almost as many "Hits" as could be expected from buying two boxes of 2010 Topps Jumbo Hobby Boxes for $215.98. And better than that, I got to choose the team and players that I like most.

"Okay, okay," you say, "We get it, you can get the "relics" and autographs we want for a song on eBay, but what about the rookies, we want rookies."

Let us look at the price of 2010 Topps Rookie Cards then. As of 7:21 P.M. EST on March 11, 2010 you can Buy It Now:

#2 Buster Posey RC, 1.50 or best offer, free shipping.
#64 Drew Stubbs RC, 1.00, free shipping.
#105 Madison Bumgarner RC $1.00, free shipping.
#196 Ian Desmond RC $1.00, free shipping.
#292 Tommy Manzella $1.00, free shipping.
#312 Tyler Flowers $1.00, free shipping.

"But," you say, "I am a set builder and I want the whole set." Fine then, be like me and buy the entire Topps Series 1 330-card set from twcbjr on eBay for the Buy It Now price of $19.90, including shipping.

Moral of the Story: Don't be a schmoe, let some other sucker bust the wax and just sit back and scoop up the cards that you really want on eBay for a fraction of the cost. This is the Pessimist Card Collector Zone, Because I'm Definitely Looking Out for You!


Update: I have added to my Red Sox Peak Performance Game-Used Collection with a Kevin Youkilis Game Work Blue Jersey for $3.99. Here it is...