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.