Monday, April 30, 2012

Will Calvin Johnson, Jr. Feel The Curse?

On March 7th EA Sports opened up voting allowing fans to select the player for the cover of Madden 13, which will be released August 28th. What began with 64 players was whittled down to only two, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Jr. and Panther’s QB Cam Newton. Nearly 20 million people voted over the 7 week period.

At the announcement ceremony on April 25th in New York City’s Time Square both Newton and Johnson, Jr. stood center stage as the countdown began on the big screen overlooking the square. When the picture came up showing Johnson, Jr. Cam Newton seemed quite puzzled, he had been acting as if he had prior knowledge that he was going to win but the fans spoke differently.

Now that the cover has been selected the question of the “Curse” will begin. Since 2000, when Barry Sanders appeared in the background, there has been some sort of fall off with each player. Some have been minimal, such as the case of Sanders who retired, while others were more serious like Donovan McNabb having a sports hernia followed by tearing his ACL the next season.

Calvin Johnson, Jr. had an awesome season last year catching 96 passes for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, his best season so far. I guess this is a question that will have to wait until the end of December following the Lions Dec 30th game against the Bears.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Score One For Leaf

Through the years there have been a number of back door thefts during the printing phase of sports cards and quite often very little information is ever released by the card companies about the cards so collectors do not get a "Heads up" on a counterfeit or stolen card.

Yesterday Brian Gray of Leaf made an announcement regarding stolen 2012 Leaf Metal Andrew Luck Green Prismatic cards. These were the cards that had Luck’s first name misspelled. The initial print run was #/99 but cards #1-10/99 were “lost” by the printers so Leaf only received cards #11-99/99 and once the error was noticed these cards were shredded.

Well, three weeks ago card #5/99 made its way on to eBay where it was sold on April 7th for $405 plus $4.50 shipping. Two weeks later card #8/99 shows up for auction and sells for $408 plus $8.50 shipping. Finally yesterday card #7/99 shows up for auction but has since been ended. All three cards are from the same seller, who happens to live in Carrolton, TX which is where Leaf Trading Cards headquarters is also located. I think it is safe to assume that the seller is either the thief or has a connection to the thief.

The original printers, eBay and the local police department were all notified of the theft and apparently the police will be contacting the people who had already purchased the cards from this seller so they can be returned to Leaf to be shredded.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My NFL Draft Review

I figured today I would offer up some unsolicited assessment of the NFL Draft so far (through the first 3 rounds). I am going to cover some overrated picks, underrated picks and the Seahawks and Cardinals picks.

First, Ryan Tannehill selected at the #8 spot by the Dolphins. Tannehill is completely overrated, he ranked 55th in pass efficiency in the nation, he started a total of 19 games at QB and he threw 1 interception for every 2 TD passes. On the positive side he is a solid 6-4”, weighs over 220 pounds and has a strong arm. But because he has so little experience at QB he is a project and the Dolphins do not have the time to bring him up to the pro level, he will be tossed in most likely within the first couple of games and we saw how that worked for Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville last year.

You know that this pick came from Mike Sherman, his college football coach who is now the Dolphins Offensive Coordinator. A man who was fired at Texas A&M because of Tannehill’s erratic playing in 2011. It is so funny to hear the sound bites coming from Dolphin’s GM Jeff Ireland and owner Stephen Ross; it is like they are trying to convince themselves that this was a good pick. Some of the gems include comparing him to Luck and RG3, repeating over and over “he is a competitor” and “he has always been part of the Dolphin’s offseason strategy”.

Second, Brandon Weeden selected at the #22 spot by the Cleveland Browns. I don’t see this as an overrated selection considering that Weeden had two quality seasons at OSU finishing up with awesome win over Luck’s Stanford Cardinal in the Fiesta Bowl, he has the size and the arm but the biggest knock is that he will be turning 29 years-old during Week 6 of the season. The Browns gave up 38 sacks last year and you have to wonder how Weeden’s body will hold up after a season or two of getting pounded.

While I can see this pick having merit I don’t see a First Round pick being used on him, maybe mid-late Second Round or early Third Round but not the #22 pick.

Third, Nick Foles selected at the #88 spot by the Philadelphia Eagles. I was hoping the former Arizona QB would have ended up in Seattle in the Third Round (where they drafted QB Russell Wilson) but instead went 13 picks later to the Eagles. Foles is a big boy and a typical pocket QB, kind of the opposite of Vick, so this will give the Eagles a couple of options to offer up some different views to opposing defenses. He will have to compete against Kafka and Edwards but that shouldn’t be too difficult to take on the back-up role.

I am seriously disappointed though, one I was hoping the QB from my favorite college team (Univ of Arizona) would have ended up with my favorite NFL team (Seahawks) but instead ends up with one of my least favorite teams in the league. This makes it difficult as a collector and will force me to grab up his Eagles cards.

Fourth, Kellen Moore, this guy is underrated. He is still sitting at home waiting for a call and when you look at his production at Boise State you have to wonder what is wrong with some of these teams. In four seasons at BSU he is 50-3 including going 6-0 vs. BCS schools and 3-1 in Bowl games. He threw 142 TDs to 28 INTs and well over 14,500 yards. OK, he is 5-11” but the Seahawks just drafted the 5-11” Russell Wilson. Some team will end up grabbing him up Saturday and walk away with a potential quality pro-QB.

Finally my favorite team reviews
Arizona Cardinals. Some needs include Offensive Linemen, DBs and LBs and finally a receiver of some sort (WR or TE)

First Round: Michael Floyd at the #13 spot, he has the same body type as Larry Fitzgerald and will line up on the opposite side which should ease the double teams on Fitzgerald and spread the defense. This was a great pick by the Cards.

Third Round: Jamell Fleming at the #81 spot, he had a decent college career and will probably fit in nicely in the Cardinals secondary but the Cards seriously need Offensive Line help and should have focused on that and then grabbed Fleming in the Fourth Round.

Seattle Seahawks. Some needs include Offensive Linemen, DE/Pass Rusher, LB and if available a decent QB to fit in behind Flynn.

First Round: Bruce Irving at the #15 spot. This kid is a questionable pick, he can be high reward but he is definitely high risk. He has been in jail a couple of times, he dropped out of high school and last month he was arrested for destruction of property and disorderly conduct. This is a potential time bomb and when you find out that Pete Carroll has a history with this kid (he recruited him to USC but the kids grades halted it) you know that this was a biased pick. There is one thing that Carroll has proven since being in Seattle and that is he will always go after a guy he has a history with over the better choice. Watch next year when he will probably trade away the team’s future for the chance to draft Matt Barkley.

The sad thing is that Quinton Coples was selected by the Jets with the very next pick. Given Coples did not have the best Senior year but there is always the question of whether the NCAA investigation got in to his head and shook his confidence.

Second Round: Bobby Wagner at the #47 spot. This was a better pick then Irving, Wagner has speed, he is athletic and he moves with the ball. He will fit nicely at Middle Linebacker and may even move in to a starter position before too long

Third Round: Russell Wilson at the #75 spot.  Wilson is “small” as far as QBs go coming in at 5-11” and 206 pounds but if you look past his size and look at his production you will see why this kid will have a decent career in the NFL (even though it may be as a career back-up). He played 3 seasons at North Carolina State and 1 season at Wisconsin, he may only be 30-20 as a starter but he threw for 11,720 yards, 109 TDs and 30 INTs. Last year at Wisconsin he threw for 3,175 yards, 33 TDs to only 4 INTs and a NCAA record 191.8 QB Rating.

This pick could have as easily been Nick Foles or Kellen Moore but I am satisfied with it overall. Let’s hope the Seahawks fill in some needs on the O-Line tomorrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

College Football Playoffs?

Today a joint statement was released from a number of NCAA football conferences announcing that a proposal is in the works to create a 4-team playoff system for the BCS Championship. A number of options are being reviewed on how to make it happen so if things do work out it may be a few years before anything is implemented.

It will be interesting to see how things play out considering the BCS and some of the major schools resisted a playoff which has led to a number of schools not included in the major conferences to complain about being left out. Currently there are only 8 teams included in the BCS bowl games, automatic bids go to the winners of the Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac 12 and the Southeastern Conference and then there are two at-large bids. This means out of the remaining 113 Division 1A schools (119 total minus the 6 included conference champions) only 2 are selected.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Upper Deck Mascots Patches

Upper Deck has gone down the manufactured patch road before with varying success, most notably with the Lettermen and Animal Kingdom patches, but with 2012 Upper Deck Football they have included College Mascots patches which will most likely get a better response from collectors.

There are 60 cards in the set featuring mascots from schools around the country and they are inserted at 4 per case. Some are rarer than others and some schools have a SP variant of the base version. I am seriously disappointed that the University of Montana, University of Delaware and the University of Central Florida are all represented and even the USC Trojans horse (Traveler) has his own card but the University of Arizona’s Wilbur the Wildcat does not have a card.

Some of the patches seem to be doing quite well with a few already in the $25-50 range with a couple of days still left on the bidding but most are selling for under $15 each.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Early Preview Images Of 2012 Panini Americana

Panini has released some early preview images of the upcoming Americana release, titled Americana Heroes & Legends, set to hit store shelves July 11, 2012. There has been no information regarding price but they are changing the pack out, now there will be 18 packs per box with 10 cards per pack (a change from 2011’s 4 packs per box w/ 5 cards per pack). Each box will contain 3 autographs/memorabilia cards along with 9 inserts and 1 parallel.

The Summer Olympics are set to open in London in late July so Panini worked in Olympic athletes in to the set including autographs and memorabilia from Winter and Summer Olympians. There is also an insert/subset called USA Medals which will feature medal winning Olympians with an actual piece of gold, silver or bronze embedded in to the card.
One of the highlights of the set is a special Eisenhower card #/4; the card features an actual General Star from Eisenhower’s uniform along with a cut signature from the General/Former President. Eisenhower eventually became a 5-Star General before the end of World War II so I am guessing Panini could only obtain 4 stars for these cards.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Andrew Luck Versus Leaf Trading Cards

On April 13th Andrew Luck’s attorney sent a cease and desist order to Leaf Trading Cards demanding that the company stop selling/producing cards of Andrew Luck from the 2008 Army All-American Bowl.

It seems that Luck’s attorney missed an important detail, Leaf has an exclusive license with SportsLink, the company that produces the Army All-American Bowl, which allows them to use the names, likeness, images and intellectual property of players in the game and this includes alumni players from previous bowls.

Leaf, in return, has filed their own lawsuit against Andrew Luck to assert their rights to continue producing cards of Luck from the All-American Bowl.

Considering that Leaf has the exclusive license to all players in the game I do not see much coming from this besides a declaratory judgment for Leaf allowing them to continue selling the cards. I do not think it will matter much though because in a few days after Luck is selected #1 by the Colts in the NFL Draft people will turn their attention to officially licensed cards of Andrew Luck.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preview: Famous Fabrics Music, Music, Music

Famous Fabrics Ink is known for their high-end sets like 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Horrors of War and Hooray for Hollywood is bringing another amazing product with Music, Music, Music in June 2012.

No price has been announced but each pack will contain 3 cards, one cut signature card and two memorabilia cards. Each case will also have a 1/1 Art Card and a Fab Four redemption card (each replacing one memorabilia card from two different boxes).

The cut signature cards span over 150 years of music ranging from 19th Century Opera to current Hip-Hop. Some of the musicians included are Stevie Ray Vaughn, Madonna, Elvis, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Sting, Elton John, Frank Zappa, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
There will be a 1/1 Beatles cut signature that will be awarded in an interesting way. Each case will include a single serial Fab Four redemption card (replacing a memorabilia card from one box); there will be 90 in all. Beginning in November 2012 10 serial numbers (redeemed or not) will be selected thus eliminating them from the drawing. This will continue, with 10 serial numbers being removed with each drawing, until the 2013 National in Rosemont, IL. when there will only be 10 serial numbers left. At a final drawing at the National 9 serial numbers will be drawn and be eliminated with the final serial number being declared the winner of the Beatles cut signature card. Sadly this means that 89 people will lose out and be shorted 1 memorabilia card from their boxes.
The memorabilia cards will include single, dual and quad relic cards. Some of the announced musicians are Presley, Whitney Houston, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Lee Ann Rimes.

Not a lot of information has been announced about the Art Cards besides the 1 per case and there will be subsets like Rock & Roll Heaven, Country Music Paradise and Spirit of Blues.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Early Preview Images: 2011-12 Panini Prime Hockey

Panini is releasing Panini Prime Hockey, a new high-end hockey product in July 2012. No price point has been announced but packs will contain 5 cards which will include one Rookie Auto Quad card (#/199 or less), one multi-memorabilia card, one autograph and one additional auto or relic card. From the preview images released the autographs all appear to be on-card too.
For the first time we will also be seeing sweater laces, in Prime Ties, and helmet decals, in Collision Course,  included in cards which is a new twist on relics.  With the way the Collision Course cards look they may be a shadow box style with the player hovering above the helmet decal.

Other relics include the Captain’s “C” and the Alternate Captain’s “A”, Genuine Marks are autographed game-used nameplate letters, and All-Star Signatures will use autographed NHL All-Star locker nameplates.

We can figure that the product will probably be on the higher end of product pricing and once it goes live there will most likely be a premium on the laces and helmet decal cards due to them being newer relics. The product seems to be nicely designed so it will probably do well with collectors.
Rookie Auto Quad Relic card

Prime Patch card

Rookie Shield Auto Relic card

Autographed Prime Patch

Autographed Nameplate Letter patch

Autographed All-Star Locker Nameplate card

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Random Blaster Box- 2012 Topps Heritage Baseball

I picked up a blaster box of Topps Heritage to take a look, I am not a big fan of the product but I usually open at least one blaster each year just to see firsthand. Who knows, someday I may find a reason to like the Heritage series. This year’s cards are based on the 1963 Topps set right down to the error cards, floating head cards and short printed high numbers.
Besides a couple of floating head 2012 Rookie Stars cards I did not pull any Mariners but I did come across a couple of ex-Mariners including one of my favorites, Yuniesky Betancourt. I am still a little bummed Pineda trade, I know that Montero fills in a needed position at catcher but losing a solid pitcher stings.
I pulled three high numbered short prints including a Mike Stanton error-back card.

One Wal-Mart Blue Parallel made its way in to my hands in the shape of super-fastball pitcher Aroldis Chapman.
I also pulled a 2011 National League Home Run Leaders Chrome Refractor #/563 so not a bad blaster overall.
Closing out with a couple of inserts; a Sandy Koufax Baseball Flashback, a Roy Halladay New Age Performers and a Mike Stanton Stick-On.

Overall this is not a bad release, I like the design but I really do not care for the gimmick intentional error cards. I think my favorite part of the set is the Clubhouse Collection, there is a heritage look to the design and the on-card autographed versions are pretty sweet.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Preview: Platinum League Trading Cards

There are very few “music” related cards, sure some musicians have made their way in to various releases but Platinum League/Green Media is bringing the Hip-Hop world on to cardboard. The release, called Platinum League Trading Cards, will be available May 1st in retail stores nationwide like Wal-Mart, Target, Hot Topic and Toys R Us.

The base set has a 100-card checklist and each pack will include 6 cards total, 5 musicians and a redemption card that collectors can redeem for random prizes like watches, cars, cash, clothing and ring tones (I would bet that a majority of the prizes are ring tones). No price is listed on their website but with packs being sold at retail figure to pay $2.98-4.98 each. A new series is scheduled to be released every few months.

The cards are pretty cool. I do not like the “Platinum League” border around the card, the logo would definitely have been enough without impeding the visuals. The card front shows the musicians and the back of the card has some basic artist information along with their discography. Green Media, the parent company, decided to include a QR Code that collectors can scan and see artist videos. The designers involved with this project have created some amazing cards. You can see more of the cards on the Platinum League Facebook page.
The announced checklist includes Notorious BIG, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Scarface, Twista, Swagga, Joe Pro, NicolayAKA, Waiun, Shane, Trick Daddy, Nipsey Hussle and many more. Some artists have multiple cards with different designs.

The on the cards below are watermarks and are not part of the design. These images are courtesy of their website and Facebook page.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

St. Louis World Series Rings

I found a bit of humor in this story. Today before the Cardinals-Cubs game the St. Louis Cardinals players received their World Series rings and the team management decided to create a design that would "tell the epic story of 2011" according to team owner Bill Dewitt III. So, they decided to pay homage to the "rally squirrel" and included a small squirrel crossing home plate.

If you look closely above the plate and crossed bats you will see the sleek figure of a small squirrel running. I think this was creative, it is fun and truly does tell an epic story.