Saturday, May 16, 2009

Off The Wagon, AGAIN!

It’s Friday, my paycheck is in the bank via direct deposit, I am off of work today cuz no one is buying anything and my hours have been cut, everything I’ve sold on e-bay is all packed up and ready to go to the post office, my car is sitting in the parking lot at work, unable to move because I removed the starter. It was removed because it became completely useless. It valiantly lasted for months starting occasionally and being beaten with a wrench when it wouldn’t, but that game finally ended and there it sits till Monday when the new starter arrives! It’s going to be a really busy weekend in Collective Troll land. Our roller derby team (Bradentucky Bombers dot org) is heading up to Gainesville, Florida (about 3 hours away) to take on the Gainesville Roller Rebels on Sunday night. I should be using this time to start prepping for the bout, but as excited as I am about working their announcer, Glyph Huckster (we called the State Championship together in February) I’d rather blog about baseball cards…
For those of you who religiously read this blog (read: Me, my wife and sometimes my Mom) you know that I had 5 months of baseball card sobriety before a small relapse last week. Well, that little indiscretion with the pack of ’09 Topps, led to me, not falling, but leaping off the wagon into a full on wax relapse!!!!
It was Sunday morning, Mother’s Day (I love you Mom!!!!) and we were heading to Target to pick up a few things. Before I get into that, I need to flash back to the night before…Saturday nights used to be date nights of epic proportions for Mister and Misses Troll, but the economic down-turn has forced us into “cheap date” mode, this, lately, revolves around sorting cards to list on e-bay and trade (yawn) and watching Rays games at home on TV (as opposed to being at the Trop or watching road games at a bar). Last Saturday night (5-9-2009) was a great one! The Rays were out in Baahston, set to tangle with the Red Sox. We (The Rays) had Kazmir on the hill facing off against Jon Lester. We (Ms.Troll and I) had a fridge full of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a bottle of Canadian Mist and nothing to do the next day! The game was amazing! Kazmir upped his record to 4-3, which looks great compared to his meaty 5.92 ERA. He escaped with the win, but lasted only 5 innings, walked 3, gave up 3 runs and only struck out 2, before getting yanked in favor of Joe Nelson. Wins are great, but when was the last time Kaz looked like an Ace on the mound?
Nelson didn’t fair any better against his former team, Joe walked 2 himself and gave up a pair of runs, all in just a third of an inning. Fortunately, the Rays offense was on fire!!!!
Reigning ROY Evan Longoria (not pictured, still don’t have a Longo card) homered and knocked in FIVE! Pat Burrell, Ben Zobrist, Akinora and Carlos Pena each drove home a pair of runs.
Carl Crawford, who swiped 6 bases in one game against the Sox last week, continued his torrid hitting. Craw is my favorite player on my favorite team. I love the Rays and I follow them pretty closely, minors and majors both. This is his 11th season with the Rays organization (and his 8th with the big club) and he kind of feels like an old friend. Ms. Troll and I nicknamed him “the Worm” because of that strange arc of a line inked on his neck. Anyway, the “Worm” was 3-4 with a pair of doubles. Reader’s will notice in the future that I campaign heavily for players that I think deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, right now my crusades are focused on Bert Blyleven and Harold Baines, both of whom BELONG in the Hall. I think the numbers Craw is putting up at his age have him starting the long walk towards Cooperstown himself, but anyway… Former D-Ray, now hated Red Sox outfielder, Rocco Baldeli blasted his first home run in a Boston uniform, a solo shot in the second, but that only made the game close in the second inning.
The Rays were too much for Jon Lester who took a pounding on the hill. He was the victim in a 6-run explosion in the fifth for the Rays. It was his second loss of the season against the Rays. I think five or six different guys came out of the pen for Boston, but it was a blowout and they were just eating innings.
After Nelson and Kazmir, off-season acquisition, Lance Cormier came on and was SPECTACULAR!! Cormy threw 3 and two thirds innings of 1-hit, shutout baseball. He collected his first save in a Rays jersey and the second of his career. Are there any cards of Cormier in a Rays uni out there? I want one!!!
So, the Rays beat Boston that night. This is always cause for celebration in the Troll household and I think we celebrated heavily.
After the game, we stayed up pretty late, watched SNL, drank some more and “discussed card collecting” in depth, it was a great night!!! The next morning, early afternoon or whenever it was when I finally woke up, I had a terrible headache for some reason. It was Mother’s Day, but both of the Troll Mama’s were at work or something, so the Misses and I were free to do whatever. The Rays were playing at night, Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN (not too shabby) so my normal Sunday routine of lying in bed watching the Rays play while guzzling coffee was not an option. We decided to go to Target. The lady troll was contemplating a bikini purchase and we were dangerously low on toilet paper and some other essentials that Target offers at very reasonable prices (Target, I am available as a spokesperson, please call my agent). I also had a prescription I needed to pick up and the Target Pharmacy has the name brand medication I know and trust at fair prices (Last freebee Target, anything more and I want a check!)We had a shopping list and a tiny bit of money, so there was nothing to hold us back. Ms. Troll handled the driving, as my “headache” was hampering my ability to see in the daylight. I became aware that I was wearing the same clothes as the evening before and I probably smelled akin to a whiskey soaked ashtray. Good thing Fabreze was on the list!We arrived, grabbed ourselves a cart and made a stop at the snack bar; first things first. We took advantage of the popcorn and soda for a buck and a half deal and began to navigate through the store. Quick glance showed a huge selection in the swim suit department, but further investigation revealed that every suit on the rack was either an extra small or extra large. Those people wearing unusual sizes like small, medium or large were out of luck.
So, as Ms. Troll unsuccessfully browsed the juniors department at Target, I disappeared to drop off my prescription (any Crestor users out there?) and wander about.
Both pharmacy clerks were in the midst of a lengthy bitch about having to work on Mother’s Day, their scheduling supervisors hated them and treated them as slaves and it was a horrible life that they led and now they had to wait on a customer? Life sucks! I handed one of them my script, she informed me there was no way it could be ready today (the pharmacy was only open for another 7 hours or so), I agreed to fetch it tomorrow and I slinked away with cards on my mind.
The store was filled with sloppy looking people, so I wasn’t too self conscious about my filth and stench, but I was still getting nervous as I approached the sports cards aisle. My nervousness turned to shakes and sweats. I had been “on the wagon” for 5 months and in those 5 months away from “the game” my paychecks had dwindled severely, but careful spending allowed me to maintain a roof over my head. A few crazy minutes in the card aisle and they could all end. I was sweating seriously. I approached with caution. Targets (this store anyway) single pack selection is not very good at all. There was Upper Deck baseball, a bunch of overpriced football cards and even some golf cards, but no Heritage baseball cards. Naturally, I am disappointed, but relieved at that same time knowing the rent check isn’t gonna bounce, but wait! To the left of the single packs were Target’s famous value boxes. There is probably a technical term to describe them, but I don’t know it. They are unopened boxes, normally with 7 or 8 packs in them for twenty bucks. In 2008, the wife and I ripped roughly 40 of those boxes last year. It’s an excellent alternative to the 100 dollar hobby boxes we also rip, but still, it adds up. So, I started pawing around the box shelf, Pabst Blue Ribbon seeping out my forehead, and I landed on boxes of both 2009 Heritage and 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights, which included ’08 Heritage high numbers.
There were about 6 boxes of each on the shelf, so I left the aisle with them all sitting on the shelf. It was a gamble that they would still be there in 10 minutes when I returned, but I was a gambling man.
I ran off to locate Misses Troll, who had given up on looking for normal sized swim suits and was off near the career clothing. She noticed that I was sweating profusely and asked me if I was okay. “I was in the card aisle” I told her.
“Oh, that explains it” she said. “You didn’t get anything?” she asked, looking more than a little surprised.
“Oh, I intend on it, but if we intend on getting my meds, toilet paper and the other silly things on that list, I can only afford one box and there are options!” I continued, “We can start on the new set of 2009 or they have high number cards of 2008, what should we get?”
We went back and forth with this huge decision and determined that since the ’08 cards were a continuation of the ’08 set we had worked so hard to collect already, we better go with that. Plus, there was a chance of pulling some much needed Evan Longoria cards, so Topps Updates and Highlights it was! I grabbed the cart, which was filled with toilet paper and other wastes of money, and raced back to the aisle. I grabbed a box and returned to the wife to see if she was ready to go. I didn’t think it was that appropriate to tear into the box in the store, but now that it was in the cart I didn’t really feel like waiting any more.She felt my pain and we speed through to check out. It was apparent that Target cashiers were a little bit happier (and healthier looking) than their counterparts at Wal Mart. We received service with a smile and got the hell out of there.
As we were leaving the parking lot, in her car with her driving, she asked about my car. My car was abandoned in the post office parking lot. I stopped after work on Thursday to ship out some e-bay cards and couldn’t get the damn thing started. It’s really a shame that car parts wear out after 17 years, ridiculous!!!
Anyway, she suggested that we check to make sure it was still there and perhaps even try to start it. I was pretty anxious to get home, but agreed it was a good idea. The car was still there, a tow truck was the only way it was getting out of there, and it still wouldn’t start. We checked our box, empty, and headed home.
I fixed us a couple of drinks and we retired to the bedroom for a little bit of team pack ripping. My sweat turned to drooling and she let me go first. I ripped through 4 packs, while she, nobly, got the shaft and opened the remaining 3. This endeavor happened very quickly and really remains just a blur in my memory. I couldn’t tell you what we got individually, but wrappers aside and dust cleared now, I can assess the results.
7 packs with 6 Heritage cards per pack should yield 42 cards, but we somehow ended up with 43 cards, woo hoo! None of those cards pictured Evan Longoria and none were emblazed with an autograph or a chunk of game used gear. Those facts disappointed me a little, but I was so excited to be back off that stupid wagon, that I really didn’t care. Sizing it up a few days later, we faired pretty well. We ended up with 43 cards, no doubles and five short prints! We got 1 chrome card, 1 flashback insert and 1 black back card. Even with no Evan, we ended up with 5 different Rays cards, plus 2 more from the Updates and Highlights portion. Here is the lowdown:
1 chrome card, numbered 0380/1959 and featuring Tigers centerfielder (and Rays killer) Curtis Granderson. We were out at the Trop last year and the guys behind us were relentlessly heckling the centerfielder, it was pretty funny actually. Now, it has become impossible to see or read about him without hearing (and saying) Cuuurtisss! We did pull out 5 Rays heritage cards, first off Rays starter Andy Sonanstine. This is my first card of Sonny, so that’s exciting. Too bad his stats are less than, exciting… 1-3 with a Kazmir like 5.79 ERA, come on Andy!!! Next up, veteran closer Troy Percival. I still get nervous every time he takes the mound, but I’ve got faith in ya Percy!
The next 3 we pulled read more like a “Where Are They Now” than a collection of guys from my fav team. We got a Jonny Gomes! We already have quite a few Gomes cards, but none of them are 1959 Topps style, so this is pretty awesome! Since his call-up in 2005 when he hit 21 dingers in just over 300 at bats, he has been a favorite in the Troll household. We have an autographed “Rays Oktoberfest” poster of him in the dining room. It was a SGA from a game in ’07 when the Rays played the Red Sox. We lucked into front row, behind home plate tickets and sat next to Mike Alstott of the Bucs. Oh, and the Rays won, thanks to a walk off homer from Akinora Iwamora, good times! Gomes can wallop anything near the plate, as long as it’s not a curve ball or slider or sinker, or… He spent all last year looking up at the Mendoza line and that’s rough when you’re looking for a spot on a Championship team. Still, we at the Troll camp, cried when the Rays gave him his release. No more chanting GOMES at the Trop, no more Gomes. I’m still sad. Where is he now? He got a spring training from the Reds, but didn’t make the big club. He’s working things out in AAA right now. Perhaps he’s getting ready to relive his awesome rookie campaign.
Next outta the pack is left handed DH, Cliff Floyd. This is our first Rays card of Floyd and it comes after he left us. I really liked the power and experience Floyd added to the Rays, he was a consummate professional and a damn good hitter. Harold Baines like if ya ask me. Where is he now? On the DL in San Diego. Our last Rays (ex-Rays) pull is Eric Hinske. The former ROY from Toronto gave the Rays some extra left-handed pop last year. He ended up finishing 3rd place in homers on the ’08 AL Champs, but was not invited back for 2009. That choice really left us scratching our heads. I would much rather have Hinske than Burrell right about now, plus he is much cheaper… Beside’s that, I really liked Hinske on the squad with his power, his versatility and his clubhouse presence. Plus, it really sucks that his last moment in a Rays jersey was striking out to end the World Series, he deserves redemption!
So, where is Hinske now? He is in Pittsburgh, with the Pirates. I caught a game the other day and they had him playing 3rd base. Crazy. His bat is still in off-season mode, he’s hitting .250 with no long balls (yet). Come on Rays, bring these guys back!
The weird thing about these packs is they have cards from 2 different sets in one pack. It’s weird to me, because I’ve never seen it before, but I am far from a pack opening connoisseur. I basically rip one product a year and that is it. I do like this combo, though; it keeps things fun and fresh. Plus, it gave more chances at Rays cards! My first was Reid Brignac. He was the Rays organizational MVP in 2006. Pretty good honor if you check out some other past winners like Josh Hamilton in 2000 or Longoria in 2007.I don’t really see Reid as a big league shortstop, but I can see him as a big league hitter.
The other Rays player in the TUH set that I pulled was super-utility guy Willy Aybar. The card lists him as a third baseman, but he played all over the field last year, filling in wherever needed for whoever was hurt. After missing the entire 2007 season with a bum wrist and personal problems, the Rays took a big risk trading Jeff Ridgeway away for Aybar, but he proved to be their top off-season acquisition.
Back to the Heritage cards…Next up is Erick Aybar, who is Willy’s little brother. He’s the Angels of Anaheim’s starting shortstop and has a very red card to prove it.
I thought the color combos on most cards were pretty decent…They were not decent on Damion Easley’s card. The 18-year vet had a short stint with the Rays in 2003, before heading to the Fish, the D’Backs and later, Mets. For all his big league service, he deserves a nicer looking card. Fellow Met, Angel Pagan has a striking yellow background on his card. There’s a joke in the name, but I’m gonna let you (the reader) make it.
The high number series has 35 short prints in it. Seems like a lot, but in seven packs, I pulled 5 of them. 687 Kevin Slowey, 686 Gavin Floyd, 695 Ross Gload,714 Mets Team and number 697 Nick Hundley. Hundley is a catching prospect in the San Diego organization. His name is Hundley, he’s a catcher, but I can find zero ties between him and Randy or Todd. Bizarre.
Speaking of San Diego and big league legacies…It’s Scott Hairston, outfielder for the Padres. Scott is the grandson of Sam, son of Jerry and brother of Jerry Jr.(who I think is in the Reds system planning a return to the majors)I didn’t realize that Jerry Sr. (legendary White Sox pinch hitter) had any other ball playing kids, thanks Topps Heritage for making me learn!
There were a couple of Topps News Rookies Stars of 2008, including speedy Twins outfielder Denard Span and Reds pitcher Johny Cueto.
The lone insert card in the box was a Flashbacks card of Mark Teixera as an Atlanta Brave. The card celebrated him hitting three homers at Turner Field in June. Jonny Gomes was the (Devil) Ray to do that at Tropicana Field when he hit 3 in 2005 as a rookie (including 2 off of Zack Greinke) and see where that got him…
All and all I was pretty happy with the pulls. 43 cards and no doubles is pretty cool to me because I have always had issues with Heritage and poor collation. To give you an example, I was going through my double for 2007 and we have 22 Willy Mo Pena cards and are still 25 cards short of the set! That said, I want more! I need more, but strictly for research, of course. I want to try and stretch the collation theory and see if I can 85 cards without a duplicate. Stay tuned faithful reader and learn of my findings…
End notes:
1. A mid-afternoon lightning storm took out our power for an hour while I was typing this. Of course I don’t save things as I type, so this story was written twice. It was way better the first time, trust me!
2. If you are wondering why I am sneaking around Target to get my fix and not going to a card shop for the goods, the reason is simple: Apparently my local card shop’s hours are Tuesday through Wednesday from 11:30AM till noon. They are NEVER open and I am sick of driving all the way out there to see their closed sign.
3. I have been writing to my fellow bloggers a lot seeking trades; it seems that no one wants to trade with me. It’s giving me a little bit of inferiority complex. Come on guys, let me play!
4. If there is a wagon, I am not on it! Next stop 2009 Topps Heritage, probably tomorrow, rent aint due for 2 weeks!

1 comment:

  1. I'm always up for trading... but I dunno how many Rays I have left.
    I'll start checking... after the long weekend;)