Guest Blog: Collecting What you Love – A Few Quick Tips

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome Tanner Jones to the COMC Blog. Tanner Jones is author of Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict and has been in love with cardboard since he was a child.  For the past 30 years, he has gone from being a casual collector to…scratch that…he has never been casual about collecting baseball cards.  He is an addict!  You can visit his website at www.TanManBaseballFan.com)

Let me ask you a question.  Have you ever purchased a baseball card you have fallen in love with?  If you are like me, you have – many times.  Now, let me ask you another.  Have you purchased a card that you didn’t love?  If you are like me, the same answer is true:  many times.  Perhaps it was a card that you thought you wanted, but turned out that it was just due to the hoopla around it created by others.  In other words, you bought it because other people loved it.

Perhaps you have indulged in one too many boxes, case breaks or razzes, only to find your collection is littered with cards you simply don’t care about.

What to do about it

It appears as though our hobby is far above average when it comes to being made “liquid” in the sense that we have many options to sell the cards that no longer appeal to us.  Websites like COMC make it easy!  All you have to do is sit down with your collection, and determine what you want to keep.  The rest can be put in the for sale/trade pile.  From there, you can use the proceeds of your sales to put into cards that will put a smile on your face.

Only buy what you love

Isn’t our hobby great?  There are so many collecting niches to choose from!  We may find the refractor shine more mesmerizing than anything else we lay our eyes on.  Holograms that jump off the card can captivate us as we tilt them back and forth.  Patch cards allow us to feel like we have a piece of the game as we rub our fingers over them.  Vintage cards are like mementos that have survived numerous wars and depict players that the childhood version of our grandfathers marveled at.

Before diving in head first, sit down and really think about what you love about this hobby.  Do you want to collect a certain type of card?  A player?  Team?  Even if you narrow it down to a certain player or team, more specificity is still likely warranted.  With the sheer amount of cards being produced each year, it can be easy to get in over your head – and quickly. Instead, perhaps consider only focusing on a certain date range for a team or perhaps only the career years for your favorite player(s).

Those are just a few ideas – don’t be afraid to really put pen to paper and jot down all of your ideas, while window shopping for cards on COMC.  With each card that passes by your eyes, ask yourself if it is something you truly want.  If it is, then the odds are it is likely a good candidate to add into your collection.  Don’t forget to set a budget, either!

Remember:  Collecting only cards you love that are within your budget is key to having a fulfilling and meaningful collection.

Rich Reminisces: The 1973 Mets

By Rich Klein
Recently I heard the sad news of George Thomas Seaver (we know him better as Tom) beginning his long goodbye as his great mind is slowly becoming less active and he is suffering from Alzheimer’s. This news comes just as the New York Mets begin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their “Miracle Mets” season. Let me assure you, if you were in the NY Area in 1969, that was truly a miracle season. So many things occurred that year which were a confluence of events never to be repeated or duplicated.  When this 1969 Topps card was released the Mets were just starting to roll a bit towards their successful conclusion.  Thankfully for collectors without deep pocketbooks there is no “White” last name version of this card. If there were, the 1969 Master Set collection cost would have grown by a decent chunk of change.

Because baseball was so important in ’69 and the Mets were such a great story,  with them located in New York and having had such a short history at the time, there were countless books written about the team during the next few months. I believe I read every single one of them. Yes, there was actually a time where reading print in all forms was how we garnered information, and in my cas,e put the information into my muscle memory, which when my turn comes to forget everything but the past, will be remembered much easier than what I had for lunch yesterday! (Grilled chicken sandwich with sautéed mushrooms, grilled jalapenos and grilled onions and a side salad).

But the real point is that those books were able to talk both about the days when the Mets were lovable loser. In fact, the Mets had books written about their beginning when the great newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin penned a tome about the 1962 team. Since New York was a major media capital back then, and the team was so bad they were good (yes Marv E. Throneberry we’re thinking of you), a detailed tome about their debut season was a first as far as I know.

Image result for jimmy breslin can't

So 7 years later was the year we first walked on the moon, and since all things seemed possible, why not have a baseball team do something we thought was impossible?  We have tons of material about the 1969 Mets, but what we don’t have very much about is a Mets team which four short years later almost completed an even greater miracle.

The 1973 Mets had many of the same key players of the 1969 team, but the team was carried by their pitching staff led by Tom Seaver. They also featured Jerry Koosman and Tug McGraw as their key pitchers, and some of the same position players including Ed Kranepool, Cleon Jones, Ken Boswell, Wayne Garrett, Bud Harrelson, and Jerry Grote.

If you look carefully enough you can see Yogi Berra 5th from the left on the second row and Tom Seaver two people to his left and Cleon Jones directly to Seaver’s left.  We’ll let other sleuths identify the rest of the team, but remember this is a photo of the 1972 team. And based on not seeing Willie Howard Mays, I’d say this was produced in 1972 spring training.

The reason this team was such as miracle was because as late as August 30th, 1973 the Mets were mired in last place, but the NL East race was so bunched up that every team could have a hot streak and become competitive. Although the Mets were in last place in the six-team National League East Division, they were only  6 1/2 games out of 1st place.Now remember, in 1973 there were no wild card spots, so you won the division or you went home.

The team that went on the run was the Mets. The story goes that General Manager M. Donald Grant went to give the team a pep talk and Tug McGraw was reacting sarcastically and stated, “You gotta believe!” Well, those three words became the mantra for the team in September, and they went on to win their division with an 82-79 record.

The “Tugger” would run with the publicity he garnered from this run and became quite the media darling. He helped to co-author a daily comic strip which you can still find a compilation of in book form:

Image result for tug mcgraw comic

September was when the school year begin in New York, but all kids big and small were too entranced by the events going on. There was a play against the Pirates in which the baseball had about a one percent chance of ricocheting off the wall in a way which would it would go back to the fielder. The miracle bounce occurred and lives on forever thanks to youtube.

A few days after that, Willie Mays, who had returned to New York the previous season to finish out his career, finally announced he would be retiring from baseball. As he said he knew it was time for Willie to say goodbye to America. The Mays Tribute Night part of this video begins at approximately the 12:45 mark.  Today, the Mets would have figured out a way to do that on a sunny Sunday afternoon with tons of publicity. Believe it or not, there was not much advance notice for the Mays ceremony.

Finally, on a rainy day in Chicago, the Mets clinched the division and the weather was so bad that the second game was never played. The game might have been played if it mattered to the pennant race, but since it did not, why risk injury to any of the players? Here is restrained way the Mets clinched the National League East.

The Mets would then go to the playoffs and defeat the Cincinnati Reds, who were just beginning to evolve into the Big Red Machine. The highlight was a brawl instigated by a fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose. Many fans then already did not like Pete Rose because of the 1970 All-Star game collision with Ray Fosse, so this just added to the hatred of Rose in New York.

That is a video of their kerfuffle. Big Bad Pete Rose versus Bud Harrelson. who by that point in a season might not have even weighed 150 pounds.

The Mets would then go deep into the World Series against the Oakland Athletics and force the series into a 7th game to be on the precipice of winning a second World Series. However, the A’s, led by their pitching staff, proved why they would be able to win three straight World Series in the 1970’s. Thanks to Topps practice at the time of showing pictures from each World Series game we did get one last 1974 Willie Mays card out of our packs. Now I realize Topps did certain things in those days to appease the target audience of kids, but the lack of a 1974 Mays card ranks right up there with other players who never received a final tribute card.

Off the top of my head such cards as a 1964 Stan Musial, 1967 Sandy Koufax and 1977 Hank Aaron would have been great for the kids then and the adults today. I’m convinced one reason the 1969 Mickey Mantle is so beloved is because he did not formally retire until March 1969 and Topps had already planned his card. Thus he got the last cards those other greats missed.

And as for Tom Seaver, as he heads into the long goodbye. he would pitch for more than another decade and amass more than 300 career victories, as well as gaining a first ballot selection by the BBWAA to elect him into the Hall of Fame on the 1st ballot.

This is just a cool modern card of “Tom Terrific” so we can all remember him as he was.

Guest Blog: Let’s Go Back to the 80’s for a Minute

(Editors Note: This post comes to us thanks to the Call to Arms we put out earlier this month seeking guest writers. Please welcome longtime COMC Member FairDeal to the COMC Blog!)

2020 will mark my 40th year for collecting sports cards. Collecting has been more than a hobby for me. It’s been a way to stay connected with my favourite teams and athletes, not to mention buddies who also collect. It’s also been about building something I can be proud of over several decades as well as act as a cathartic release during tough times.

My collection is comprised of baseball and hockey cards (1980 to present) with rookie cards, pre-rookie cards, refractors, active-era Carlton Fisk as a player I collect, and few favourite built master sets acting as the foundation of my prized haul. For this Blog entry, I want to share with you the story of the two first cards, which caught my eye and remain, to this day, on the centre shelf in my Sports Collectibles Man-cave.

1979-80 o-pee-chee Brett Callighen:

The 1979-80 season was the inaugural NHL campaign for the Edmonton Oilers. A young 18-year-old prodigy named Wayne Gretzky captured the hearts and imagination of all Edmontonians (if not all Canadians as a whole) with unparalleled vision of the entire ice surface and play-making ability. The future was bright for this young up-start squad – the sky was literally the limit. Numerous Smythe Division Titles, Campbell Conference Crowns, and 5 Stanley Cups to follow – not to mention hall of fame nods for almost a quarter of the active roster. Despite the pre-social media fervor and ground-swell excitement surrounding Wayne, my favourite Oiler was his line mate and left-winger Brett Callighen.

Callighen was a journeyman winger who had been a part of the World Hockey Association (WHA) originally with the New England Whalers then later with the Edmonton Oilers. Smooth skating and creative passing skills made Brett Callighen a force to be dealt with. Through that first NHL season, Brett was paired with Wayne on most nights and he would end up with 58 points despite missing 21 games to injury.

When the week’s worth of chores were successfully completed, it was allowance time and hockey cards were certainly a priority for me. The ‘79-80 O-Pee-Chee set had an amazing blue edge border with white swoosh down the right side with team logo anchored in the corner. Each pack contained 14 cards and a stick of gum that often would ruin a card if it became attached.

Each card served to mesmerize and I was always waiting with anticipation for the next opportunity to visit the corner store to get more of them. Obtaining Callighen’s card was almost an obsession from day one! Unfortunately cracking my first few packs did not yield my favourite player. Now I won’t say that I traded a Gretzky for a Callighen; that would be like Jack and the Beanstalk in trading a field’s worth of cows without the beans growing into too much. However, I do recall having to part with a number of good cards, in a lop-sided trade, to get the elusive card number 315 of this set. I remember beaming in having this card proudly showcased on my dresser during that first season; it was an amazing childhood experience that I still smile at when I look at it.

Callighen would play through two more injury-plagued seasons with the Oilers before being released prior to the 1982-83 season. When the announcement came in the local newspaper that Callighen had filed for retirement from the NHL and signed with HC Lugano in the Swiss Elite League, I was as crushed as a 12-year-old boy could be. Brett gave up pro hockey for good after the 1985-86 season and would make periodic appearances with the Oilers Alumni during events over the next 3 decades including the final epic send off for the Edmonton Northlands Coliseum.

1980 Topps J.R. Richard

Some of my favourite childhood recollections come in the form of watching Montreal Expos games with my Dad. The two of us, on a weekend, seated on the couch with junk food in hand, with games on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) were a staple and nothing could change that.

On August 13, 1979, Dad and I prepared for another tilt on the tube; this time the opponent was the Houston Astros. We had our ace Steve Rogers going that day so victory was a certainty…or so I thought…

The opposing pitcher that day was J.R. Richard. Before Randy Johnson, there was another tall lanky fire-baller who dominated hitters with triple digit MPH touching fastballs, J.R. Richard. As the game progressed, hitter after hitter for the Expos were sat in rapid fashion by J.R via a strikeout and weak ground outs. Among the strikeout victims were future hall of famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. The ball just exploded out of J.R. Richard’s hand as he delivered each pitch. With his super long and lanky frame the ball seemed to be halfway to home plate already at the point of release. The Astros came out on top via a complete game victory from their starter that day. (See the box score below):

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU197908130.shtml

The next season, I started to purchase Topps baseball cards (to go along with the O-Pee-Chee hockey cards) and I knew immediately that the J.R. Richard card was a must have. Fortunately, I was able to find his card in a purchased pack and I was over the moon! The photography captures a dominant pitcher who was likely on his way to sitting down another hitter with the shameful fruitless walk back to the dugout after a strikeout.

Sadly, 1980 would turn out to be J.R.’s final season in Major League Baseball and after retirement, personal problems led to homelessness and a series of life challenges for Mr. Richard. Happily, J.R.’s life made somewhat of a turnaround in the 2000’s, as he was involved in a documentary on his story as well as a series of appearances with the Astros organization. The images of him delivering that fastball was unreal and the 1980 Topps Card was something I absolutely treasured then and still treasure now.

Takeaways:

These two cards are cherished possessions, and illustrate that despite having almost no market value but, incredibly special to me, from a sentimental lens. There are literally thousands of cards in my collection that I would part with before getting rid of these two. Whenever I open a box or pack and struggle with the condition of an upper-end candidate for grading or lament a short-print, wishing it was a 1/1 instead of out of an /100, I look at these two cards and am reminded not only of great memories of yester-year but humbly brought back to why I started to collect and continue to collect to this day. They keep me grounded for sure. It also helped me build a foundation for why I collect:

· Collecting keeps me young with connections to heroes of the past.
· Collecting keeps me connected with players and teams of today whom I follow.
· Collecting may seem antiquated, but the stories and hunt of each card can make it special for you!
· Collect if you love it because life is short and doing something you love is worth it. I will continue to do it until there are literally no cards left to buy or trade.

Guest Blog: Top 10 New Collections to Start on a Budget.

(Editors Note: This post comes to us thanks to the Call to Arms we put out earlier this month seeking guest writers. Please welcome COMC Member Tycrew to the COMC Blog! Tycrew is a University of Illinois alumni and is currently in graduate school working towards a career in dentistry. His areas of focus in the hobby are football and baseball, but as a lifelong collector, his collection is not just limited to those sports).

The perfect collection is what we all are striving for in this hobby. It is an ever elusive goal along with the oft insatiable drive to find the perfect combination of cards that allows you to take a step back and stare in awe. Most average collectors are not going to ever be able to afford to add the Graded 10 Mike Trout rookie autograph flight to our personal collections. Us mere mortals must abide by budgets and finical restriction. That said, financial restriction does not need to limit us. I put together a list of potential collections that can all be complied while being fiscally responsible. The goal is to to always be adding loads of intrinsic personal value while sending only a little cash. It doesn’t have to have a huge price tag to be the prefect collection.

Bonus) Jersey Cards NBA Starting Five

I’ll be honest, I don’t collect basketball cards and that is why this idea is a bonus. I open packs of them on occasions and then try to trade them away as soon as I get them because they just do not fit in my collection. If I did collect basketball, I would do this: I would find a jersey card for every player on the starting five on my favorite basketball team. It’s a small collection that is highly displayable. Even if you are a Warriors fan, and every player is an all-star, the jersey cards are affordable. You can always expand to the whole bench too with out running out of dough

10) Your fantasy teams

This idea could be a fun one especially if you can get the others in your fantasy league to buy into the concept too. The core set up would involve you drafting your team like normal but, once the season begins, you cannot start the player unless you have their card. There are all sorts of different rules you could add to make this work for you and your friends. To add a degree of difficulty you could make a requirement that all the cards have to be numbered or an insert. It would make the league more fun and add an exciting twist to free agency. Setting up a keep league where you can only keep the player if you have their autograph could also be an intriguing option.

9) The Regional Gems Collection

You would be surprised how many players from your area have a rookie card. Most likely they only ever got a rookie card, but that’s all it takes. This collection usually will stem around your high school. Go back and make a list of the schools from your area. Obviously start the list with your school. Then add the crosstown rivals and then make sure throw the rest of the conference in for fun. Use your favorite web search to find the guys who made it to the big,s and who you need to look out for going forward. Occasionally, you will be searching through a box at a show or opening a pack and find someone from your area to add to the collection too. People in the community will be impressed when you show them, and you will always be able to add to the collection as more guys work their way up the ranks.

8) Home Run Derby Bat Card

Some relic cards can almost seem disappointing when people are only on the hunt for autographs or high price cards. Not in this scenario. The whole goal of the collection is to get a bat card from every player in the most current year (or your personal favorite year’s) home run derby. Even though some of the top players are in the derby, most solo bat cards are reasonably priced, and there are only eight guys with the most recent rules.

7) Starting QB for every NFL Team

To be clear this is not going to be the cheapest collection when you start it. Among all of the ideas on the list this one will have the highest start up cost. This will be a long term investment though. Once you get the starters in the collection, you will only need to replace a few a season which makes it very affordable long term. This might have the best display options of any of the ideas on the list two. A big matted frame with the teams listed with window spaces for the card would look sharp in just about any man cave in the nations.

6) Old Players, New cards

Keep a look out for famous players on new cards. These usually come in the form of inserts or numbers, but can also be autos and relics too. There are many old timers that have tons of new cards that you can pick in in the quarter box at shows or on COMC. Pick a player, pick a team, pick an era – they all will work. Most of these cards are very affordable and look great. The hard part about this collection is it is limitless!

5) Player collection

If you don’t have a favorite bench player or back up or guy who didn’t ever make it quite as big then you need to find one. A player from your childhood who you really liked works too. The only two rules here is it cannot be the hot rookie, or a superstar, and you cannot arbitrarily pick someone for this collection. If you do just casually pick someone you will quickly begin to get buyer’s remorse. I found my player when I was young. Mark Prior was my favorite Cubs pitcher growing up. Not sure why, but he was. Even though he won’t make the Hall of Fame or get his number retired, I still really think of him as one of my favorite players. His autograph is reasonably priced, and I can’t get enough. Find yourself a Mark Prior.

4) In person autographs

I do not need to tell you too much about this kind of collection. This is simply a reminder that not every card has to be DNA carbon dated, graded and personally certified with a COA to be a real autograph. Most teams have opportunities to meet the players with autographs. Taking base cards to those opportunities can really add personal value to a collection without spending money.

3) MLB Team Top 30 Prospect Autographs

This has been my most recent focus as of late. I went and found a website that ranked the 30 best prospects for the Cubs and made a list. I’ve been collecting autographs, but could have chosen base rookie cards just as easily. Spring training has become a blast watching these guys play with the big boys, and having the hope that one day they may become the big names on the roster. It is an evolving list, but without too much turnover, so it gives you the opportunity to keep up without having to build something completely new. Most guys are very inexpensive except the few top guys. You will have a prospect get good and have to dish out some cash but they are most likely to became a valuable card. This collection has the added benefit of giving you a chance at finding gem that turns in to the next MVP and pays for the whole collection.

2) Your college football player

Think about how many players you see in the dollar box at the last show you went to or COMC of college football players who went undrafted. There’s a lot of them and no one seems to what them. Well I want them, or at least some of them. I went to a big ten school with a bad football team. That doesn’t stop me from loving my alma matter and watching every Saturday. To me a lot of the best players on the team give it their best to make the league, but most fall short. That doesn’t stop the printing plates, however. Like with the baseball products, I like to keep a look out for the autographs. This collection is always evolving, and can keep you engaged with the college players you watched and cheered for three to four years. The best part is, unless you are a fan a power house program, most of these players are very affordable. Who cares if they don’t go pro, they were and always will be your guys.

1) The base card set

That’s right. The best collection on a budget is still and always will be a complete base card set. It is accessible and overwhelming satisfying. You can make it easy on your self and buy a box or two of the new stuff and almost ensure you get all the cards (and guarantee yourself a good insert or two), do it the old fashion way one pack at a time, or finish off your set via COMC. If vintage is more your style, you will probably end up spending a bit more, but you do not need to be sucked into grading or only having cards in perfect condition. You can snag lower quality copies via COMC, or go to local show or store and add to your collection. There is probably no better feeling than completing the set yourself. In contrast to many of the other collections, this collection has a defined start and finish which can be a great drive and also a great way to prevent you from over spending. The complete set is the king of affordable collections and I don’t see that changing any time soon!

The Good Word: Everything is Better with Age

By James Good

As a kid growing up in the 90’s, my sports card collection was amassed primarily thanks to weekend trips to the grocery store with my Grandma that always yielded a couple packs, and thrift store or garage sales finds of junk wax commons that I gladly handed over a  few dollars of my allowance money for. But every once in awhile I would be taken on a much anticipated, highly coveted trip to Toys ‘R Us or K-Mart, where I would be forced to decide between a new video game or a couple $20 boxes of trading cards. Unless an amazing new video game had just come out, I always went with basketball cards, exclusively Collector’s Choice or Fleer, as the local grocery stores strangely only carried baseball and football cards.

The first vintage trading cards that I ever owned were 12 nine-pocket pages filled with of 1970 Topps baseball cards.They were given to me by one of my Grandpa’s friends who caught wind of my obsession with trading cards. The best card of the bunch was a Carl Yastrzemski #10, but the cards never impressed me much. The gray bordered design was dull and the photo quality was grainy when compared to those 1995 Score baseball cards I loved so much.

Flash forward to 2019 and what a difference a couple of decades can make. The trading card industry has radically changed, but there is still no better product being produced today than Topps Heritage Baseball. The great thing about Heritage is that it sets out to do the exact opposite of almost every other product being released today. As the industry continues to innovate, Heritage throws it back to decades ago, celebrating card design, modest insert sets, and a time when trading cards didn’t feature embedded table cloth relics.

Earlier this year as 2019 Topps Heritage’s release date drew near, I was reminded of my disdain towards the 1970 design, which I knew would be featured this year. Initially, I was not even a fan of the mock-ups provided by Topps prior to the release date, but that all changed when I opened my first pack. All of those flaws in the 1970 Topps cards that I owned as a kid were gone. The updated card stock boasted a modern feel and the print quality was immaculate. Perhaps more importantly, these cards were actually well centered! All of these improvements immediately calmed my concerns over the product design, and my four box rip on the Friday after release day was an absolute blast.

Heritage is a product that is 100% built and designed for collectors who appreciate cards for more than just their value, so if you go into ripping hobby boxes and retail packs hoping for big hits, you’ll usually walk away disappointed. But for me, the action image variations, short prints, and all of the callbacks to cards of yesteryear are more than enough to keep coming back year after year. Here are just a few reasons that I love this year’s product.

The Callbacks

Pat Neshek is respected in the hobby for being just as big of a baseball card collector as the rest of us who don’t have hundreds of baseball cards of our own. I can only imagine how thrilled he was when presented with the perfect opportunity to recreate Lowell Palmer‘s 1970 Topps photo and put on the shades. Todd Frazier also plays along in imitating a classic, but he would need to shed about 25 pounds of muscle to create a more accurate imitation of Bud Harrelson.

The Official Farewells

A large portion of my life revolves around sports and sports cards. I am a daily visitor of MLB Trade Rumors and I receive push notifications of breaking news to my phone courtesy of ESPN.  Even though I knew these hometown favorites of mine were no longer Seattle Mariners within minutes of trades and signings going down, and some of the deals were for the better, it only feel real to me once I saw them in their new uniforms on these cards. Heritage is that set that hits me right in the feels before the season gets underway. Their contributions to the team I love most cannot be questioned, but it’s going to take a very long time getting use to seeing ‘The Boomstick’ in a Minnesota Twins uniform or James Paxton donning the pinstripes.

The End of an Era

There were no bigger free agent signings this off season than Manny Machado to the San Diego Padres and Bryce Harper to the Philadelphia Phillies. These should be among their final cards of them depicted in their former teams uniforms for the time being. The Sporting News themed cards are very fitting considering that these two dominated the off season rumors and headlines. I’m very big fan of Harper, who also got a pretty sweet action image variation this time around, a card that I was fortunate enough to pull that will remain in my PC for decades to come.

The In-Game Action Cards! 

In past blog posts my fellow COMC Blogger Rich Klein has talked about how much he enjoys game recap cards, and I cannot agree more. I really enjoyed the clever captions on these cards, which is why they stood out to me this year more than others. Topps knocked it out of the park in paying tribute to their 1970 counterparts:

The Ridiculous Mustaches

Daniel Mengden has had the best ‘stache in the MLB on lock for the last couple of years with his Rollie Fingers-esque facial hair. However, a new challenger has emerged, and Darren O’Day has kicked off 2019 by taking over the crown of Most Magnificent Musache in the Majors (MMMitM). That thing rivals even some of the sharpie jobs we’ve seen over the years from cards submitted to COMC.

The Evolution of our Pastime

It’s always fun to put into context how much the game has evolved over time, and there is no better way to do so than to compare the league leader cards found in Topps Heritage with the cards from the original set they mirror. To wrap up this blog, I’ll leave you with two statistical comparisons that are pretty incredible.

Rod Carew hit .332 over 458 at bats, with 8 home runs, 56 RBI’s and 19 stolen bases, while walking 36 times, and striking out 72 times in 1969. He earned an All-Star nod and finished 10th in MVP voting.

Mookie Betts hit .346 over 520 at bats, with 32 home runs, 80 RBI’s, 30 stolen bases, drawing 81 walks and fanning 91 times in 2018. He was an All-Star, the American League MVP, and won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.

Fergie Jenkins went 21-15 with a 2.63 era, 273 strike outs, 71 walks and gave up 27 home runs over 311.1 innings in 1969. He was not selected to the All-Star Team.

Max Scherzer went 18-7 with a 2.53 era, 300 strike outs, 51 walks, and gave up 23 home runs over 220.2 innings in 2018. He was an All-Star, finished second in Cy Young voting, and 10th in league MVP voting. He racked up 27 more strike outs than Jenkins in 90 less innings pitched.

The Official COMC Fantasy Pack Baseball Team of 2019!

When we’re not processing the millions of trading cards that come through the doors of COMC on a yearly basis, we like to embrace the hobby and have a little fun. Many members of our team have been fantasy sports enthusiasts for decades, and over the last few years we’ve tried to develop innovative and fun ways to incorporate sports card pack and box breaks with fantasy sports. You may remember our Fantasy Baseball Pack Battle League from last year.

This year, we’ve come up with a fun concept to build a fantasy baseball team using packs of the 2019 Topps Opening Day Baseball Card product. Unlike other fantasy games, we’re not trying to score points,but rather trying to build a team that can ‘win’ the most games using a unique scoring system.

If you want to play along at home, it’s really simple! All you’ll need is to two $9.99 blaster boxes of Opening Day and a way to keep track of your team and stats!

How to play: 

  1. Open all of your packs. Separate your batters and pitchers into two piles, then separate your batters into piles sorted by player position.
  2. Build your offense. Your Offense should consist of 9 players (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 outfielders, and a Designated Hitter). Choose three reserve players (any position) as well for backups in case of injury. Duplicate players are allowed if a player is an outfielder or listed at multiple positions. (If you did not receive a position player from each position, you may play a player of any position to compensate)
  3. Build your pitching staff. Your pitching will consist of 5 Starting Pitchers, 1 Closer, and 2 reserve pitchers (SP or closer). Duplicate pitchers are allowed. (If you do not receive enough pitchers to field a full staff — each pitcher you received may be played up to two times to compensate.If you didn’t receive a closer, you may play a sixth SP.)
  4. (Optional) Hard Mode: Play with a salary cap and build your team using the league average of $132 million or less by utilizing salary information found on Sportstrac.
  5. (Optional) Ultra Hard Mode: Any player with an real life salary of under $1 million is automatically bumped to $3 million. Players on rookie contracts still provide tremendous value, but not nearly as much as they do under hard mode.

Scoring

The scoring system for this game involves converting your players on-field performance into ‘wins’, with a goal of building a team that can win as many games as possible. You can track your players performance throughout the year using Baseball-Reference.

Hitting Scoring 

Every 40 runs = +1 win
Every 15 Home Runs = +1 win
Every 15 Stolen Bases = +1 win
Every 30 RBI’s = +1 win
Every 50 walks = +1 win

Example: Mike Trout in 2018: 101 runs (2), 39 HR (2), 24 sb (1), 79 RBI (2), 122 walks (2) = 9 wins
A team with an offense comparable to nine 2018 Mike Trout would earn 81 wins.

Pitching Scoring

Every 5 Wins = +3 Wins
Every 5 losses = -1 Win
Every 5 Saves = +1 Win
Every 75 Strikeouts = +1 Win

Examples:
Justin Verlander (sp) in 2018: 16 wins (9), 9 losses (-1), 290 strikeouts(4),= 12 wins
Edwin Diaz (rp) in 2018: 0 wins (0), 4 losses (0), 57 saves (11), 124 strikeouts (1) = 12 wins

A team with a pitching staff comparable to five 2018 Justin Verlander and a 2018 Edwin Diaz would earn 72 wins. Combined with the hitting total, this team would win a total of 153 games.

Exception: Autographed cards pulled from your 2019 Topps Opening Day Blasters are worth 50% less points than their non-autographed counterparts. Why? Because you’re already a winner if you hit an auto out of an Opening Day Blaster, duh! Also, you should be submitting that card to COMC to sell ASAP!

Substitutions: If any of your hitters fail to appear in at least 108 games (2/3rds of the season) during the 2019 season, you may swap them for a reserve player from any position. If any of your starting pitchers fail to make 20 starts throughout the 2019 season, you may swap them for a reserve. If your closer fails to appear in at least 45 games in the 2019 season (save opportunity or not), you may swap them for another relief pitcher.

Our Team:

For this game, we’ll be using the hard mode of staying under the $132 million salary cap.Opening two blasters yielded enough position players and pitchers to field several teams, so you should have no trouble building a team or three to play along. A lot of good players got the snub due to our salary cap restriction. We passed on elite fantasy players like J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, and Stephen Strasburg simply because we could not make the numbers work. Our strategy was to divide the money in half as close as possible to balance out hitting with pitching.

Hitting:

Designated Hitter: Mark Trumbo ($13.5 Million)
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto ($5.9 Million)
First Base: Anthony Rizzo ($11.28 Million)
Second Base: Gleyber Torres ($605,000)
Short Stop: Francisco Lindor ($10.55 million)
Third Base: Rafael Devers ($614,500)
Outfield: Ronald Acuna ($560,000)
Outfield: Mike Trout ($17.6 million)
Outfield: Mitch Haniger ($590,000)

2019 Hitting Payroll = $61.19 million

We ran into a salary cap problem after our initial team configuration, which meant that J.D. Martinez and his $28 million contract had to be downgraded to Mark Trumbo’s more manageable $13.5 million deal. Our second and third year players provide insane value for their price tag, allowing us to pay for Trout, Rizzo, Lindor , and Trumbo. We went with the hometown favorite Mitch Haniger as a sentimental pick over a certain player riding our bench. More on that later.

Pitching:

SP: Justin Verlander ($28 million)
SP: Gerrit Cole ($13.5 million)
SP: Trevor Bauer ($13.0 million)
SP: Blake Snell ($1.6 million)
SP: Jacob Degrom ($9.0 million)
Closer: Edwin Diaz ($607,000)

2019 Pitching Payroll = $65.7 million

We had way too many good pitchers to choose from, so we had to make some extremely tough decisions. In the end, we decided that the Houston Astros 1-2 combo of Verlander and Cole simply provided too much value to overlook. Trevor Bauer has in insane K/9 ratio, and reigning AL CY Young Winner Blake Snell is the best deal in the Opening Day set. We round out our pitching staff with the NL Cy Young Winner Jacob Degrom and his new teammate Edwin Diaz, who should still be capable of closing 50+ games for what should be a competitive New York Mets team.

Reserves

Hitter: Juan Soto ($578,000)
Hitter: Max Muncy ($575,000)
Hitter: Whit Merrifield ($1.0 Million)
Pitcher: Dereck Rodriguez ($561,000)
Pitcher: German Marquez ($565,000)

Bench Reserves Payroll = $3.279 million

Admittedly, spending $126.89 million of our $132 million before considering a bench probably wasn’t the best idea. Our team finds itself extremely thin in the event of a pitching injury, with us not having the cap room to add a veteran or top backup pitcher. All in all, we spent  $130.1 million of our $132 million, and it was extremely difficult to pass on some of the game’s best. If we had played uncapped, our team would have looked substantially different!

What do you think about our fantasy game and scoring system? Have you come up with any good ways to turn your trading cards into an interactive ‘fantasy sport’? If you decide to play along at home with us, let us know how your draft goes and who’s on your team! We’ll be checking in with an update blogs along the way throughout the season to track our progress!

The Pulse of COMC – How will the Seattle Mariners Do in 2019?

Welcome to ‘The Pulse of COMC’ , a new monthly blog series where we give our team members a chance to be heard on topics ranging from sports to pop culture and everything in between! For our inaugural flight, we’re turning our attention to our local beloved Seattle Mariners baseball team.

Following another failed attempt at earning a playoff spot in 2018, the Seattle Mariners made some drastic off season roster changes, parting ways with established superstars and key players while in return replenishing their farm system with younger talent expected to make an impact in 2020 and beyond.  The Mariners have stated that their plan is to be competitive in the future, leaving a lot of question marks for what could be a ‘results may vary’ 2019.
 
With that in mind, we asked our team to answer the following questions:
 
How many games will the Mariners win in 2019?
 
“I think the Mariners have enough upside to be a .500 team. A lot key veterans were traded away, but I don’t think this will be the 100-loss disaster a lot of people are foreseeing. I’ll put my win/loss prediction at 79-83. It’s tricky because Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce add pop to the lineup, but could be traded if they perform well enough and will make it tougher to reach the .500 plateau with their absence.”  – Dieter V.
 
 
“The Seattle Mariners certainly had an overhaul of sorts, with a projected six new starters in the lineup, and do not quite have the look of a contender. However, how much did they really lose? Looking at the numbers shows you that the losses weren’t extreme. Going out was a combined 90 HR, 322 RBI, 33 SB, and a combined slash line of .263/.331/.421. The one caveat to these numbers is the fact that Robinson Cano only appeared in 80 games due to suspension and his overall production will be the toughest to replace. All in all these numbers are not hard to replace and they brought in a lot of power over the off-season with Edwin Encarnacion, Domingo Santana, and Jay Bruce while pairing that with athleticism in guys like Mallex Smith, J.P. Crawford, and Shed Long. The pitching staff remains largely the same with the exception of Yusei Kikuchi taking over for the departed James Paxton.
 
Overall I would be hard pressed to say that this team is worse, on paper, in 2019 compared to 2018 however they still have the look and feel of a rebuilding team. If they finish above .500 I would call it an over-achievement so I will make my proclamation that they finished the season with a 80-82 record.” – Kyle S.
 
“Even though the team lost a lot of fan-favorites and key producers, I look at our projected roster and I see a group of guys with plenty of high upside, but more importantly, plenty of heart and desire to play the game at a high level. I think we took a step backwards, but it won’t be as miserable as most expect. 77 wins sounds about right.” James G.
 
“Not as many as my beloved Yankees and more than my hometown Texas Rangers. Probably around 76-77″Rich K.
 
“70”Sam P.
 
“65”Darren F.
 
“Some; I mean statistically, they have to, right?”Joseph H.
 
How do you feel about the off season changes the team made?
 
“Domingo Santana was a sneaky pickup who has a few years of team control and already has a 30 HR season under his belt at the MLB level. If Kyle Seager and/or Dee Gordon return to form, the Mariners offense could be above average. Pitching is where there are some issues. King Felix has lost his crown, Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc are #3 or #4 starters at best. Marco Gonzales is not a true ace, and Yusei Kikuchi is a #2 or #3. With no dominant starter and a patchwork bullpen, we could see a lot of runs allowed.
 
I love the acquisition of Jarred Kelenic in the trade with the Mets. He could be the future face of the franchise. If he builds on how he performed as an 18 year old, he’ll be a top 25 prospect in all of MLB heading into 2020. Kyle Lewis is finally healthy and having a strong showing this Spring. The future of the M’s outfield looks very promising.”Dieter V.
 
“How do I feel? This team robbed me of my ability to feel, long ago. Rebuilding isn’t necessarily a bad thing… but the timing and implementation of these moves… doesn’t make a ton of sense.
 
First off: Hunter Strickland is not a closer. Hunter Strickland is a moron.Secondly, How did we not trade Nelson Cruz at the deadline last year? And instead let him walk… for nothing? How much more was Cano worth after his 2017 season? Why trade Mallex Smith the first time? We ended up paying more for literally the same player we already had.I think Edwin Diaz and Mike Zunino were a larger part of the M’s 2018 “success” than most people realize. I actually like Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion – it’s too bad they aren’t going to be in our lineup past June.
 
Lastly, I think it was disrespectful to Felix Hernandez and his career in Seattle, not to go for the playoffs, in the final year of his contract.  Whatever you think of King Felix… this franchise owed it to him, to try and contend… TWO front office extensions were tenured on the assumption that we were fielding a competitive team. What impact player did Dipoto acquire mid-season? Oh yeah, Cameron Maybin. To me, these off-season moves were nearly all front-office justification — for their inability to field a contender… or even, a wildcard team. It’s a lot easier to fail if you don’t give fans the expectation that you’ll succeed.” – Sam P
 
“Having been a die-hard M’s fan in the 90’s and 2000’s, it pains me to say that for almost a decade now I haven’t cared nearly as much. I used to go to a few games a season and yet I’ve only been to a couple the past few seasons. So even though five big names are gone from last season’s epic fade job, I never grew attached to them and don’t plan on doing so with this new crop of supposed high-level talent.”Darren F.
 
“The changes made were a necessary evil. The core they had proved unfit to get the team to the playoffs and being a middle-of-the-road franchise has been growing tiresome for the team and the fan-base. They needed to blow up the team and start as fresh as they could and they did that. In my eyes the off season was successful in the now but the player development department will need to work overtime to ensure it is successful in the future. Bringing in top prospects in Jarred Kelenic, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Erik Swanson, and Shed Long really stocked up a very depleted farm system that at the time only had Evan White and Kyle Lewis to hang their hats on. The front office says they built this team to compete by 2020 and I think these off season changes help the team outlook more for the 2021 season and beyond. They still lack starting pitching and bullpen arms to build on which is why I think the rebuild takes a year longer than they projected. However I am still happy with the way the off season went and feel refreshed that this team actually has a farm system to be excited about.”Kyle S.
 

“I question if we could have gotten more value out of James Paxton and especially Edwin Diaz, such as getting both Peter Alonso and Jarred Kelenic from the Mets. I think a lot of fans will be skeptical of that deal if Justus struggles out of the gate, and he probably will given the amount of run support he’ll receive during his first season at the MLB level. The Shed Long deal was the best move they made, and although I love me some Ben Gamel, I think the swap for Domingo Santana could go down as a Jay Buhner-esque level deal. Signing Yusei Kikuchi was smart, as is the flexible deal he signed, but feels like something of a consolation prize for missing out on Shohei Ohtani a year ago.
 
It physically pains me to suggest this, but if the team was truly committed to a building a winner in 2020 and beyond, they need to make a very tough decision on Mitch Haniger, because his value will never be higher. They need to buy out his arbitration years and extend him, building the offense around him as their superstar, or they need to ship him out for a multiple top prospect package that would give us the top farm system in the majors. Haniger is my favorite Mariner since Griffey, but it would be hard to feel terribly upset about a deal with a team like the Braves if it brought over Austin Riley, Cristian Pache, and Ian Anderson.” – James G.
 
“Thank you for James Paxton. We’ll take him even for 25 starts in NY”Rich K.
 
What do you think they could have done differently, or should do in order to bring a championship to the city of Seattle?

“Could the M’s have made some moves to compete for the division this year? Probably. But with an aging roster and falling just short of the playoffs the past couple years, hitting the reset button was appropriate to try and build sustained success with talented youth rather than go all-in with an older foundation that was nearing its end anyway.”  – Dieter V.
 
“Going into last season – they should have snagged a capable center fielder and at least 2 more, starting pitchers via free agency or trade. Guys like Scott Kazmir, Nathan Eovaldi, and Gerrit Cole – come to mind. Otherwise… they called have invented time travel, called Pete Caroll, and told him to run the ball… because that’s still a more likely way to bring a championship to Seattle… than this front office – winning a world series.
 
In all seriousness;  Going forward – we’re going to need  franchise caliber players at 1st base and center field, more than anything. IMO those are the positions to build championships around, and we aren’t going to compete or even crack the playoffs with trader Jerry’s flip-floppy decision making. Justus Sheffield becoming a James Paxton level ace is pretty much a necessity in this fantasy scenario”.Sam P.
 
“I think having a real plan and sticking to said plan would make a difference. Whether that is going all in or tanking to get better draft picks; in today’s world you either have to be aggressive and overpay/go for it or just start all over again. They are in that horrible middle realm.
 
And in all seriousness, they are heavily screwed by their location and they have to travel more than any other teams.  Not that this would make a ton of difference but a team either in Vancouver or in Portland is almost mandatory so their travel can be somewhat reduced. This puts the Mariners at a very large disadvantage every season.”Rich K.
 
“They need to bring in a world-class manager who’s actually won in the post-season. I miss Lou Piniella, and his balance between fiery accountability and down-home persona. People forget that in this franchise’s 40-plus years of existence, only one manager has led them to the playoffs (1995, 97, 2000-01). I’m not sure that Scott Servais is the man to lead them to the promised land in 2021 when this ‘Step Back’ era comes to fruition. Ironically, that would mark the 20TH anniversary of their last post-season appearance.” – Darren F.
 
“Commit. Commit. Commit. What are we doing here? Are we tearing it all down, as the off season moves suggested, or are we ‘re-imagining’ the roster as Jerry Dipoto recently suggested to dodge the tough questions? Commit to the tear down, grind through a couple of bad seasons of big league ball, and when the timing is right, move all-in and sign or trade for the guys needed to push the team into October.
 
Stop giving up on guys so early. Give Daniel Vogelbach 400-500 AB’s in 2019 to prove if he is a AAAA player, or a major league hitter capable of manning the DH role for years to come. Say farewell to Felix and Kyle Seager gracefully, or eat their contracts if they become too much of a detriment to the team. Continuing developing Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi into your top of the rotation pitchers, because Mike Leake, Wade Leblanc, and Felix Hernadez do not have a future in Seattle. And above all else, since we’re making wholesale changes, Aaron Goldsmith needs to take over for Dave Sims in the booth.”James G.
 
“They are going to have to follow the mold of the Houston Astros to find success and bring a championship to Seattle. The Astros developed an amazing offense and a couple starting pitchers and then went out and acquired two big time starters in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The Mariners need to do the exact same thing by getting Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Shed Long, and J.P. Crawford developed into above-average big league hitters and then add to a starting staff that should already include Yusei Kikuchi, Justis Sheffield, and possibly Justin Dunn or Logan Gilbert. The prospects they have are not only projected out to be excellent hitters but they possess above-average athleticism which will play a huge role playing at T-Mobile Park.
 
It is going to be a fine line between bust or success with these prospects but if they hit on a few of them they can certainly build on that and finish the team out through free agency. I could see a championship coming to Seattle by the year 2023 as I think it will take at least two years of seasoning for some of our top end prospects before they reach the majors.” – Kyle S.