2019 Custom Cavalcade, Part 2

As I’d mentioned in Part 1, I thought it would be a fun late Winter / early Spring project to take all of the custom card templates I’d created of vintage card sets and use each one to create a custom for a new 2019 set.

We’ll start off with Blake Snell.  Because he plays for the Rays you’ve probably already forgotten that he won the Cy Young Award in 2018.

Back in 2016 I created a 1953 Topps template but now, thanks to Topps Living Set, you’ve probably had your fill of cards done in the style of 1953.  Too bad.  I like the way this photo works with the design.

Mea culpa: I screwed up by capitalizing “shortstop”.

Like last week’s 1985 custom, this 1961 Topps custom was created for a post I wrote months ago, and then I hadn’t reused the template until just now.

Many of you won’t be familiar with this design; this is from the 1970/71 Topps Hockey Stamps set.  It’s not a classic design, but it’s colorful and I like it.

That’s all I’ve got for this week… A large part of my day yesterday was spent preparing for a card show, at the card show, and doing card stuff after the card show, so I’m frankly a bit carded-out right now.


Mystery Date… Are You Ready For Your Mystery Date?

I’ve got a card show coming up this weekend and I’m very excited about it, but I honestly don’t know what to expect… it’s kinda like being set up on a date.

Now what you’ve gotta understand is that here in Shlabotsylvania the hobby has cratered big time over the past 10-15 years.  When I moved here in the 1990’s we had a monthly hotel show; both the hotel and the show are long gone. We also had a a quarterly “Big Show” over at the Fairgrounds, but that was gone well before I started this blog in late 2011.

Nope, these day anything involving a card show usually involves driving two hours – if traffic cooperates – to a regional show.  I enjoy the heck out of it, but I only get to do it once or twice a year and it eats up my entire Saturday.  I also have not been to a card show since last July.

Late in December I stumbled on news of this weekend’s show which is one I would consider ‘local’ – it’s about 100 miles closer than my usual show.  Not knowing anything about this show, it’s like the 1960’s commercial for the board game “Mystery Date”.

Will this show be a dream where dealers want to ensure the show’s enduring success by offering good deals on vintage cards?

…Or will it be a dud where the dealers have monster boxes full of Overproduction Era commons which smell like someone’s basement and are labeled as “Rare” with an asking price of 50 cents each – or three for a buck, such a deal.

Just for funsies I decided to run through a number of “dream or dud” situations.

Dream:  Hostess cards

I often suffer from Hostess Envy when looking at what other people get at card shows… It seems like cheap Hostess cards are available anyplace where I’m not.

I’m not currently chasing any of the sets, but they’re 1970’s cards so I love to add them to my collection.

Dud:  1995 Fleer

Naturally, the one scanned copy I have of a 1995 Fleer card would be a not-completely-awful Dwight Gooden card, but you get the picture.

Would I like to finish out my Mets team set someday?  Yeah, sure… but I’m not risking my vision and my sanity by thumbing through  a box of these things looking for a handful of needs.

Dream:  Red Man Tobacco Cards

Red Man cards, issued from 1952 to 1955, predate most of the players and one of the two teams I collect.  There are also too many Hall of Famers for me to seriously consider chasing after them as a set.

But do I love to collect any affordable well-loved cards which pop up at shows, regardless of who is on them?  To make another 1960’s pop culture reference… You bet your bippy!

Dud:  2013 Panini Triple Play

These are such a dud that I didn’t even have a scanned example to share, so I’ll start by mentioning that I kinda liked 2012 Triple Play.  It was different and quirky and moderately fun.

…But then they brought it back for a second year and cranked up the attempted quirkiness, not to mention the presses, so that these cards are best described by a term usually used for a different era:  Junk Wax.

Dream:  Reasonably-priced 1966 Topps High Numbers

Sure, why don’t I just go ahead and wish for Casey Stengel as an autograph guest at this show?  By the way, the card below is just for illustrations purposes, Roy McMillan is not a High Number (but look at the awesome World’s Fair patch on his sleeve!)

1966 Topps sticks in my craw because, on paper, that year’s Mets team set should’ve been completed long ago.  It comes before Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver made late 1960’s Mets team sets an expensive proposition.  It comes after the Mets filled their roster with aging big names like Duke Snider, Warren Spahn and Yogi Berra.

But here I am, chasing after big money cards of Lou Klimchock.  Lou Freakin’ Klimchock, who played all of six games for the Mets, who played three times as many games in AAA as he did in the Majors over 15 professional seasons.

Yeah, it bugs me.  I should just bit the bullet and finish off the set at whatever cost, but I can’t bring myself to spend so much on Lou Klimchock.

Dud:  Monster boxes full of musty 1988 Donruss, 1991 Fleer and the like

Again, nothing against these sets other than it wouldn’t be an effective use of my time to thumb through boxes of these cards which are easily available through other avenues.

I could go on… Dream:  Oddballs like Mother’s Cookies.  Dud:  Oddballs like 1980’s Fleer boxed sets.  Dream:  Vintage hockey commons.  Dud:  Graded Alex Ovechkin cards.  Dream:  1970’s Wacky Packages.  Dud:  2016 MLB Wacky Packages.

Audience participation time…

When you go to a new card show, what are your hopes and dreams?  What are you fears and nightmares?





1980’s “Desert Island Binder, Part 6: Computer Für Das Eigene Heim

Don’t worry about the German in the title, that’s just referencing the “Shlabotnik’s 1980’s Playlist” part that comes at the end.  If I have the phrasing (and translation) correct, it means “Computer for your own home”, which gets a Whatevs in 2019, but was pretty forward-thinking in 1981 (hint, hint)

Speaking of 1981… Sometimes I look at 1981 Donruss cards like this Dick Tidrow…

…and I start to think like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas: “I never thought it was such a bad little set. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love”.

…And you know, people, sometimes I start to think that I’d completed the two other 1981 sets 38 years ago, and I’ve got a little over half of the 1981 Donruss set… Maybe, just maybe I should work to complete it!

At times like that, when my thoughts get a little ahead of myself, I need cards like this one to remind me why completing 1981 Donruss shouldn’t be a priority:

Yeah, maybe having two complete flagship sets from the same year should be enough for me…

Back in 1988, if someone had pointed out to me that Topps “Big” Baseball had cards like this, I would’ve been a lot more receptive to the idea.

As it was, I largely ignored the cards until years later.  These sets are still nowhere near a priority, but I like to add to my team and player collections.

I normally like my card designs to be colorful and fun, but I have to admit, I think that 1986 Topps works best for the Yankees, partially because Topps used only black and white for that team…

…But when you combine that with the Yankees’ home pinstripes, it really just works for me.  It’s not that I don’t like the rest of 1986 – I do like it, and I suspect I like it more than many – but it’s unusual for a particular color combination within a set to make me nod appreciatively and say “Yeah… yeah, that’s it…”

I don’t know that I can have a post which doesn’t include a 1980’s Fleer card which doesn’t have a fun/goofy photo.  This 1983 Duane Kuiper fits the bill for this post.

I came across this card while going through my various 1980’s binders, and I thought it interesting that it was the rookie card for two future managers.

Terry Francona, of course, is the current manager of the Cleveland Indians, and has mananged the Phillies and Red Sox.  Brad Mills managed the Astros from 2010 to 2012.  Bryn Smith never managed, but he was a minor league pitching coach, played in 13 seasons in the Majors and was the first Colorado Rockies pitcher to ever get a win… funnily enough, against the Expos with whom he had pitched the majority of his career.

Frank Robinson had an oversized card in the 1984 Donruss Champions set, and even if he never played in the 1980’s I feel the need to include this card in the Desert Island Binder. Of course, the artwork is by Dick Perez.

This post seems a little light, and I don’t have time to write a whole lot, so I’ll include this 1983 Topps Chris Speier simply for the action shot.  That’s the Dodgers’ Derrel Thomas trying to elude the tag.

I’ve been totalling up how much is the binder after each post. We’re adding 6 standard-sized cards to bring the total up to 37… so that’s five 9-pocket pages (one of which has only 1 card in it) plus three oversized cards which are, of course, three different sizes so they go in three different sheets.

For this week’s 1980’s track I’m going to go full-on Techno-nerd. In High School I started to seek out my own music; It’s a bit of a long story, but one of the bands I got into was Kraftwerk, and I got so much into them that by the time their new album “Computer World” came out in 1981, I wasn’t satisfied with the domestic version… No, I had to get the imported German version – “Computerwelt”. I prefer German version as the mix is different and the lyrics to certain songs are more meaningful and quite a bit darker… plus it just sounds cooler in German.

2019 Custom Cavalcade, Part 1

Over the winter I got to thinking about how many different types of custom cards I’d made since I started futzing around with custom cards in 2008, as well as since I started to share them here in 2012.  Some of the templates I created were used a number of times, some of them were one-offs used to illustrate a point or just to get one single idea of mine converted from thought to pixels.

Wondering how many templates there were got me thinking that I should make something of a Spring Training project out of creating new customs from all of these template I have, and in the process make something kinda sorta like Topps Archives… only in my case I wouldn’t be limited to Topps flagship baseball designs of a certain vintage.

Last week, I showed a tease in the form of this 1955 Bowman tribute…

…This week we’re going to start the project in earnest.

Just to emphasize the non-Archive-y nature of this custom set, I’ll continue with a template I’d made based on 1957/58 Topps Basketball, the first basketball set that Topps made.

I’m not a basketball fan or collector, but there’s something about this simple, colorful design which speaks to me. I think this is the first time I’ve used this design for baseball purposes.

The first and only time I used this horizontal 1973 Topps baseball template it was because I’d run across a photo that reminded me of 1973 Topps, and decided to build a custom around it. This time I did a 180 and went out looking for a photo which looked similar to a 1973 action shot… Relatively distant and with a couple of other players included.

I feel like I need to explain something with this next custom, a tribute to 1991 Topps Baseball.

The original cards had a logo at the top left which said “Topps 40 Years Of Baseball”.  When I originally made these customs three years ago, my logo said “Shlabotnik 5 Years Of Customs”, but because the little ribbons of text were hard to read, people could only really read the “5” and asked me what it meant.  This time around I’ve updated the number to reflect how long I’ve been publishing these customs on my blog, and yes, it says “Shlabotnik 8 Years Of Customs”.  So there you go.

Here’s another custom which features a non-baseball design;  this one uses the 1964 Philadelphia Gum Football design, which is a favorite of mine from the “less is more” school.

Every now and then when I get into a delusional state, I think that if I were to chase after a vintage football set again, I’d go after one of these 1960’s Philadelphia sets… and then the logical side of my brain kicks in and says “Seriously?  Bart Starr?  Johnny Unitas?  Gale Sayers?  You’re going to chase after THOSE cards?”  and I back down and say “Yeah, you’re right, maybe I should just focus on my Steelers team sets and leave it at that”.

Going waaaay back for this one, this is the 1940 Play Ball design.  The image of Jose Ramirez came from last year’s Spring Training “Photo Day”;  this year’s Photo Day should be coming up in a week or two, and I’m planning/hoping to get some images of players who have changed teams.

…And ideally someone from the Marlins in their new uniforms.  The question is:  Which Marlin?  Now that Realmuto’s gone, who would serve as a “big name” on that team?  Looking over the roster, I’d probably go with former Oriole Wei-Yin Chen or newly-signed Neil Walker.

I’m going to wrap things up for this week by heading back to the 1980’s:  Clayton Kershaw on the 1985 Topps Baseball design.

I was surprised to find I’d only used this design once before, in a post from last August where I predicted which designs would get used for 2019 Topps Archives.  When I’d created it – and this one is completely from scratch, I didn’t just scan a 1985 Dodger card and change the player name – I was pleased enough with the results that I wanted to use it some more… and I just now realized that I never had until now.  Maybe it was that lingering thought about not having used these templates enough that got me on this project in the first place.

I just realized I never shared the full “mission statement” for this project.  I’m going to feature use each template once and only once within this project, I’m going to try to feature only players who could be considered to be among the top 100 or so players in the game (thus sparing you from looking at customs of my personal favorite players who are currently non-roster invites to Spring Training), and I’m planning on creating a couple of new templates for use in this project.

So there we go.  If things go as planned, I’ll be doing this through the end of March.

Hope you enjoy it!

Learning To Play MLB Showdown

MLB Showdown cards – part of a Collectible Card Game produced between 2000 and 2005 – are not something I truly seek out, but as a lover of baseball cards and of baseball simulation games, MLB Showdown cards are among my favorite things to stumble across. If I find MLB Showdown cards for cheap – like in a dimebox – I will gleefully scarf them up, and won’t give any thought about what to do with them until afterwards.

Like many of you, I’ve wondered how the game is played. I’ve been meaning to learn for a number of years, but I never really get around to it.  A passing thought in a post over on Remember The Astrodome – “Did anyone ever actually try to play MLB Showdown?” – inspired me to get off of my butt and start figuring the game out.  Sometimes all I need is confirmation that someone else will find something of interest and make it worth my time.

I figured I probably had enough cards laying around to form a couple of lineups, so I went looking for instructions online. I found a video that wasn’t as helpful as I thought it would be, but it became clear that 20-sided gaming dice are involved.

While I was pondering how much my preferred local comics/gaming store would charge for dice, a thought bubbled to the surface of my brain, in the same way that the answer provided by Magic 8 Balls just kind of rises up through the blue “whatever” inside.

“Heyyyyyyyy…” I thought, “Didn’t I get a cheap Starter Set a number of years ago?”

I went to a largely disused closet where my tabletop baseball simulations are kept – Statis-Pro Baseball (which I wrote about in 2015), Cadaco All-Star Baseball (which I wrote about in 2013), Donruss Top Of The Order (which I’ll write about someday) – and sure as shootin’, there it was: A 2001 MLB Showdown Two-Player Starter Set.

I don’t remember when/where I got it… I’m pretty sure I found it at a show somewhere, and likely at a price I couldn’t walk away from.  At the time, I probably said “Now I can learn how to play this game”, and as is often the case, that went nowhere without the proper motivation.

So before I go any further, I want to make it clear that what follows is not a detailed tutorial on how to play.  Nobody’s going to be tournament-ready by the end.  I just figured there are plenty of people who own a few of these cards and would like to get a general idea of what it’s about.

Within the relatively small box there is the 20-sided gaming die, a game mat (which also lists the instructions for the “Beginner” version of the game), 15 American League player cards, 15 National League player cards, another pack of cards which come with a “Play a few games under the basic rules before opening” notice.  These cards are the Strategy cards, and I’ll come to those later.

So here’s the game mat (along with some assorted crap from Shlabotnik World Headquarters):

As it turns out, the mat is a helpful learning tool but is not necessary to play the game.  I’ll also mention that folding it back up again was just as frustrating as folding up a gas station road map.

So I played a couple of innings under the basic rules;  what follows is the top of the second inning of the first game I played.  Leading off is Vladimir Guerrero of the National League team – as you can see, his card is a “foil” which means the surface is somewhat shiny and a tiny bit refractor-y, plus the team logo is silver foil.  Vlad is the cleanup batter in the NL lineup, as the team went down in order in the first.  On the mound for the American League is Kevin Appier.

In the basic game, each at bat consists of two rolls of the dice;  the first, by the team in the field, is the “pitch”.  The second roll, by the team at bat, is the “swing”.

As you can see in the photo, the pitcher rolled a 5.  That roll is added to the “Control” Number at the top of Appier’s card to get a value of 7 (5 + 2 = 7).

That number is compared against the “On-Base” number on Vlad’s card, which is 9.

Since the die roll + Appier’s Control number is less than Guerrero’s On-Base number, that means that the batter has the advantage and we use Vlad’s card for what comes next.

…And what comes next is the player at bat rolls the die; this is the “swing”.  The number which comes up in the roll is looked up on the chart on the bottom of Vlad’s card.

As you can see, the higher the roll of the die, the better it is for the batter.  I’ll get into some of the less-obvious results in a little bit, but in this case the batter rolled a 7 and everything from 6 to 13 is a Single.

So we’ve got a runner on first, no outs, and Desi Relaford comes up to bat.

The pitcher rolls a 7;  7 + Appier’s Control # of 2 = 9, and that’s higher than the On-Base number on Relaford’s card (8).  The advantage goes to the pitcher this time.

The batter rolls a 9, we look at the chart on Kevin Appier’s card:

Anything between 9 and 13 is “Out (GB)”, which is a ground-ball out.  One out, and Vlad moves to second.  Under the Expert rules, the player in the field can try to double-up Vlad, I’ll mention that (briefly) towards the end.

Next up, Bubba Trammell.

As you can see, Trammell has an on-base number of 7, so Bubba is less likely to get a “batter’s advantage” than Vlad (9) or Desi (8).

While we’re comparing cards, I’ll show this comparison between the charts on the cards of Vladimir Guerrero, Desi Relaford, Bubba Trammell and Kevin Appier.

Hopefully those of you reading on your phones can see these charts, but you can see how the same die roll can have different results based on who’s batting or if the advantage goes to the pitcher.  For example, a “swing” roll of 16 is a triple for Vlad, a single for Desi, a double for Bubba and a fly-ball out for anyone batting against Kevin.

On an individual level, you can see that you’ll never strike out when the result is off of Vlad’s card, and you’ll never homer when the result is off of Appier’s card.  Similarly, Relaford might get on base a lot, but it’ll mostly be walks and singles with no chance at a double or triple and only a 1-in-20 chance at a homer.

Getting back to our at-bat, the batter rolls an 18.  Bubba Trammel walks, Vladimir Guerrero stays on second, one out and Doug Glanville coming to bat.

The pitcher rolls a 20, and at this point you don’t need to compare any numbers to know that the advantage goes to the pitcher… but just for the sake of this post, 20 + 2 > 7 (Glanville’s On-Base number).

The batter rolls an 8, that’s a Strikeout – Out(SO) – on Appier’s card.

First and second, two outs and the #8 batter, Warren Morris, coming to bat.

The pitcher rolls a 16, so that again is clearly on Appier’s card, but the batter rolls a 20, which is clearly good for the batter.  Appier’s chart shows that 20 = Double, so Vlad Guerrero scores, Bubba Trammell goes to third and Morris is standing on second.  (Quick side note:  It’s interesting that the result would’ve been the same had Morris’ card been used.)

It was at this point in the half-inning that I realized I’d made a mistake in picking out the lineups.

When I set the batting order, I went with 8 batters and the pitcher… but that’s because I had just breezed through the rules printed on the mat, and hadn’t given it any thought.  With the #9 slot coming up in the batting order, what happens when the pitcher bats?  As it turns out, if you play by the NL rules, there is no “pitch” as the result always comes off of the pitcher’s card (Appier).  How boring is that?  At the last minute, I went to my “bench” and picked out the best player, Richard Hidalgo, to be the DH.  The numbers are similar to Vlad’s because 2000 had been a monster year for Hidalgo:  42 doubles, 44 homers, 122 RBI and a .314 average.

The pitcher rolls an 8… 8 + 2 = 10, which is higher than Hidalgo’s On-Base of 9.  The batter rolls a 14, which is a fly-out on Appier’s card, and the inning is over.  One run on 2 hits and a walk, 2 men left on, the National League is leading 1-0.

…So that’s playing by the BASIC rules.

Under the “Advanced” or “Expert” rules, a pitcher is not endlessly effective, but wears down after a certain point.  Let’s take a look at the top of Appier’s card again.

You’ll see he’s listed as a Starter, and as you’d guess, only Starters can start games.  He’s a righty, and that comes into play when you start to work with the strategy cards – I’ll get to that in a minute.  I’ll also come back to the “310 pt.” part.

Right now, let’s look at the “IP 6” part.  This means that Appier is 100% effective through 6 innings pitched.  After he hits 6 innings, he starts to tire out and when rolling for the “pitch”, you subtract 1 point from the dice roll for each inning past the 6th.  For example, if Appier were pitching the ninth, he’d have 3 subtracted from each dice roll, one for the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Let’s quickly replay the 2nd inning as if it were the 9th;  we’ll keep the same rolls of the dice, but the outcome will be significantly different.  Vlad’s at bat was on his card to start with, so we still have him getting a single.  For Desi Relaford, the pitcher rolled a 7, which now becomes a 4, and added to Appier’s control number we only have a 6, which is lower than Relaford’s On-Base number of 8, so we have “Batter’s Advantage” and the result comes off the batter’s card.  The batter rolled a 9, so instead of a ground out, we have a walk and runners on first and second.  Trammell’s at-bat is still on Appier’s card and still a walk, so now we’ve got bases loaded. Glanville still strikes out, and Morris still rolls a 20 using the chart on Appier’s card, so he still doubles but now he drives in two runs instead of one.  For Hidalgo’s at bat, 8 – 3 + 2 = 7, which is less than Hidalgo’s 9, so we’re working off of Hidalgo’s card.  The batter’s roll of 14 becomes a single instead of a fly out, Bubba Trammell scores and now instead of one run scored and the inning over, we’ve got three runs in and the leadoff batter coming up with two outs.

Before we move on, I’ll also point out that in the Advanced game the pitcher also loses effectiveness when he gives up too many runs.

Let’s get into the strategy cards now.  For non-gaming collectors they’re an even odder oddball because they have smaller photos and don’t identify the players on the card.  A Randy Johnson collector, if they even knew about this card, might not fully understand what it means:

Players start the game with three Strategy cards and add one at the beginning of each half-inning.  Each card says when to play the card – often “Play before the pitch” – and gives a result.  Since we now know how the game works, the result of “Add +1 to every pitch this inning until a batter reaches base on a hit or a walk” makes sense to us now.

There are also strategy cards which are played after a result.  For example, after Warren Morris’ double and if “the pitcher is tired” – meaning that he’s past his “IP” listing on his card – the player at bat could’ve played this card:

Playing this card will change that double into a homer.

Many of the cards I’ve seen are along the lines of “Add +2 to the swing with runners in scoring position” or “If your starter would be tired next inning and he’s given up 3 or fewer runs, he gets a +1 IP” (and Wizards Of The Coast gets a thumbs-up for properly using “fewer” to refer to something which can be counted.  “Fewer cookies, less punch”.  End of grammar lecture).

Brief mentions of other things on the player cards

I don’t want to get into a full description of all aspects of this game – I’ve gone on long enough as it is – but I figured I’d run through some of the other bits of info on the player cards.

Let’s go back to the top of Vladimir Guerrero’s card:

I’ll start with the position.  If Vlad was listed as “OF”, he could play left, right or center field, but he’s clearly listed as a corner outfielder and can only play in left or right.

The “+1” after the position works with Strategy cards which tell you to make a “Fielding Check”.  You roll the die, add on the fielding of the players involved (i.e. the outfielders) and if the roll + fielding is high enough you can, for example, turn a hit into a fly-out.  Fielders can have different ratings for different positions.  The Doug Glanville card I inserted above has a +2 for center field and a +1 for left or right field.

Catchers have a similar number which is used for catching a runner trying to steal, and is used with the Speed rating on the baserunner’s card and a dice roll to determine if the runner is safe or out.

“470 pt.”… I thought this is one of the more unexpectedly interesting bits of info on the card.  On the surface, it’s easy to understand:  Good players have more points than bad players.  However, the points don’t come up during the game itself, but are used in managing the teams.  The Basic rules tell you to set the batting order from most points to least points, which is a good way to go about it if you don’t feel the need to get into leadoff batters, cleanup hitters and the like.

However, these also factor in to putting your roster together.  The rules say that a 20-player roster should not total up to more than 5000 points (averaging out to 250 points per player). This is only fair, as you have to have some reason to include some true bench players on the roster, and not just fill it with Frank Thomas and Randy Johnson cards.

As for some of the categories on the results charts…

Runners can tag up on a fly ball – Out(FB) – or take an extra base on a hit.  This is another one that uses the combined fielding rating of the outfielders, speed and dice roll to determine “safe” or “out.

Ground-ball outs – Out(GB) – can be converted to double-plays, again, based on combined fielding rating of the infielders, the speed rating of the runner and dice roll.

The batters cards have entries for “Single” and “Single+”.  On a “Single+” result, the batter “steals” second if second base is empty.  In the Expert game, a runners can take an extra base on a Single+ result.

Assorted random bits of info and opinions for anyone who’s interested enough to have gotten this far:

If I were to play the game on an ongoing basis, I’d probably go to my local comic/gaming store and get a pair of different-colored 20-sided dice to replace the one white one which comes with the game. It’s a small die and a little ‘unsatisfying’ for adult hands.  If I were playing the game solo I’d roll two different-colored dice at the same time, with one color being for the “pitch” and one for the “swing”.

…But this doesn’t strike me as a great game to play solo.  Too many of the finer points of the game, like lefty/righty matchups, only factor in when a strategy card is played, and if you’re playing against yourself for funsies you would often have to play a card against your opponent who is, of course, yourself.  I mean, it can be done, but I prefer for these situations to be built into the game play instead of having to be invoked.

From what I understand from poking around different forums and websites, the MLB Showdown rules were tweaked from season to season, and new gameplay elements had been implemented from year to year.

I read somewhere that the formulas used to create the cards were also tweaked as they went along, so if you were playing against anyone who’s a serious player, they wouldn’t allow you to mix player cards from all six years of the game;  you’d have to agree to all use 2001 cards, for example.

One last thought from a collector viewpoint…I wonder how much variation there is in these starter sets, if there’s any variation at all.  Did all of the Starter Sets come with the same 30 players?  I wasn’t able to find a definitive answer for that, but if true it would mean that those cards would be significantly more common than cards which came from booster packs.

So that wraps up my little experiment with playing MLB Showdown.

Now that I’ve learned how the game works, these cards will remain fun oddball cards and I won’t likely use them as gaming cards.  There are too many aspects that I find unrealistic, like how the fielding seems to be handled by the outfield or infield as a whole rather than by individual players, or the whole lefty/righty strategy thing.  I don’t doubt that this could be a fun game to play against someone, but I don’t have any gaming friends so I won’t know for sure.  For my solo game playing I’ll stick with Statis-Pro or Cadaco.

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll answer them as best I can.  Again, I’m no expert, I’m just a guy who casually enjoys baseball tabletop games and happens to have a copy of the 2001 Starter Set.

Custom Sunday: More Baseball Stamps, Plus A Preview Of The Next Project

I need to be productive with my Sunday, as I didn’t get a whole lot done yesterday… Well, that’s not true, I got a bunch done hobby-wise, but not a lot done in terms of the stuff I should be doing.

So my point is that this will be a fairly quick post; I’ll start off with three 2019 TSR Stamps (which are based on the 1969 Topps Stamps), all reflecting players on the move.

After four seasons in his native Canada, Russell Martin was traded back to the Dodgers for a couple of minor leaguers. It had been long enough for me, with stops in Pittsburgh and New York in between, that my first reaction to the news was “*Back* to the Dodgers? …Oh, yeah, that’s right…”

In looking Martin up on Baseball Reference I found out that he had been drafted out of high school – or “Polyvalente”, because it was in Quebec – by the Expos. I did not know that.

The Diamondbacks signed three-time All-Star Greg Holland as a free agent. Holland lead the league with 41 saves in 2017, but had a mixed season in 2018.

He signed with the Cardinals late in Spring Training and was not at all good in his time with St. Louis. He was released at the beginning of August, hooked up with the Nationals and pitched well for them.

It seems to me that this pattern was repeated several times last year – a player missed much of Spring Training because of the slow free agent market and as a result he got off to a poor start and didn’t get his act together until well into the season. I hope that both players and GM’s are more aware of this in 2019 than they were a year ago.

Someone who didn’t wait around was former Mets and Reds pitcher Matt Harvey, who signed with the Angels in December. Mr. Harvey enjoys the night life, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he told his agent to get him in as big a city as possible. “No more Cincinnatis!”

I wasn’t planning on teasing this upcoming project just yet, but I’m a little short on material today, so I’ll throw in one extra custom…

While going through all of the custom cards I’ve made over the past seven years of this blog, I was pondering how many different types of customs I’ve made, and I thought that it might be fun to make a special “set” during Spring Training which would feature one custom for every Template I’ve made (not including my original designs).

So here’s the teaser, the “Pre-production sample” if you like: It’s Aaron Judge in a 1955 Bowman design.

I think this will be fun, if I can just stay on top of things enough to keep up with myself.

So, more of these soon!

Everybody enjoy the Superb Owl today, if you care about such things. I’m just happy that it signals that baseball isn’t too far off (and I have to admit, I’m curious about the upcoming Alliance of American Football).

Looking Back On 2018, Forward To 2019 (Weigh-In #61)

I’m not usually one for writing about goals, and I guess the fact that this isn’t getting posted until February says a lot.  In general, my goals for the past few years have been “Have fun” and “Streamline my collection”.

One thing I have been relatively good at is keeping track of my progress, and that has made me all too aware that there hasn’t been a lot of “progress”.  I need to revisit my objectives because getting rid of a hundred cards here and there out of a collection that’s north of 80,000 cards is not getting the job done.

So here’s what is going to happen in this post… I’m going to look back at 2018 in the form of one of my “weigh-in” posts, listing cards coming and going, as well as the money I’ve spent.  After that, I’m going to float a few ideas I’ve had about kicking my streamlining process up a notch or two.

It’s a long post, but I know some of you will find it interesting, and if you don’t… well, I’ll be back tomorrow with some custom cards.

To give this a little visual appeal and to whet everybody’s appetite for 2019 Topps Heritage, I’ve scattered some images of 1970 Topps cards… like this one!

Side note about 2019 Heritage:  One thing I wonder about with this upcoming set is how much thought they’ll put into the color of the team name on each card.  I’m of the opinion that the people doing 1970 Topps did give a fair amount of thought towards colors based on the pictures involved and what background the name would be in front of… for example, the yellow “SENATORS” works nicely against the dark background.  Anyway, just a thought.

On to the numbers.

Changes since the last weigh-in (from 9/2/2018 to 12/31/2018):
Net change in the collection: +771 (827 added, 56 removed)
I made the mistake of checking to see when this number was last negative (meaning that more cards were removed than added): It was over four years ago. (*sigh*)

Net change to the # of cards in the house: +1045 (1257 in, 212 out)
The last time this number was negative was two years ago… not *quite* as depressing. One thing that affected me this year is that we were not able to give out cards at Halloween, and I also did not take those accumulated cards to Goodwill.

Totals for 2018:
Net change in the collection: +2,298 (2,451 added, 153 removed)
Net change to the # of cards in the house: +4,398 (5,103 in, 705 out)

Totals since I started tracking on 10/16/2011:
Total # of cards purged from the collection, to date: 12,395
Net change to the collection, to date: +4,309
Again… I keep saying I want to streamline my collection, but this “Net change” number has not been negative since late 2016.

Total # of cards which have left the house, to date: 50,294

Net change to the number of cards in the house, to date: -19,177
This number was -26,404 back in early 2015.

Size of the collection:
Number of individual cards tracked in my Access database: 64,175
Number of cards that make up the sets flagged as completed in my Access database: 14,630

…which means I’ve got at least 78,805 cards in my collection

Money spent on cards

Money spent on cards since September 2nd (this does not count money spent on show admission, shipping, supplies, etc) $225.07

Money spent on cards in 2018: $948.31 (which averages out to $79.03/month). This is much more than my monthly average for 2017 ($43.63/mo). I didn’t track my spending before 2017.

One thing I’m going to do in 2019 is get a little more “granular” in tracking my retail spending.  The last two years, if I went into Target and bought $10 worth of Topps packs and $20 worth of Heritage packs, I would’ve listed the total spent as $30.  In 2019, I’ll put them each on a separate line in my spreadsheet.

Size of my MS Access card database:
A few years ago I created an Access database and began tracking my collection in there. There’s quite a bit of work involved in keeping it up-to-date, so I like to satisfy my own curiosity by finding out how much information is currently in my database.

My database currently contains 892 set definitions (up 91 from the last weigh-in) and 222,961 card definitions (up 18,398 from the last weigh-in).

It’s important to point out that this is merely the number of sets and cards which are represented within my database; for example, although I have no cards from 1949 Bowman, it represents 1 set definition and 240 card definitions.

This is one of the few numbers I’m happy about here; I added a crap-ton of data to my database over the past three months.

…And now, on to the forward-looking, navel-gazing, “What am I gonna do now?” section.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that for me to make any progress in streamlining my collection, I need to determine what SHOULDN’T be in my collection just as much as what should. Here are some general goal-like statements I made for myself, maybe some of you will find these somewhat thought-provoking.

I need to back-burner some projects.
Having a “Plan B” is good for when a particular project runs into roadblocks, but my problem right now is that I’ve also got Plans C, D, E, F, G and H. The end result is that I’m just flailing about without making real progress on anything.

I’m going to cut back on retail – but in what way I’m not sure.
A significant part of the fun of this hobby comes from ripping packs, and I’ve come to enjoy ripping a few after a particularly crap day at work… But I’m all too aware that buying retail is far from cost effective, especially when I’m growing less and less interested in the inserts. I may consider other options for Heritage and leaving the retail pack-busting for the lower-end sets like Big League and Opening Day.

Quick pause for another 1970 card

I need to put more thought towards what I want my collection to be.
Just saying “I want to streamline my collection” hasn’t been enough for me, I need to do some navel-gazing about what specifically should be included in my collection… but not just “keep this set, ditch this set”, but more of a “mission statement” of what I want my collection to be.

I need to put more thought towards what I should move away from.
This is kind of the opposite of the prior goal; I’m feeling the need to define what should fall *outside* of the collection. For example, I kinda-sorta collect Francisco Lindor, and I only collect Fauxbacco cards like Allen & Ginter or Gypsy Queen under certain circumstances… So maybe I should draw the line and say that two kinda-sortas adds up to one “Yeah, no”?

I need to rethink some of the conventions involved in collecting.
I’ve already done this with set collecting to a large degree; for newer sets, I collect what I want from within a set and don’t let things get defined by what the manufacturer says a set is. If I love a set enough to want to collect it all, then great. Otherwise, I generally can do without the “League Leaders”, “Rookie Debut”, “Home Run Derby” and combo cards which clutter Topps Series 1, 2 and Update.

I’ve lately started to reconsider the definition of team collecting. I’ve always been a Mets collector; however, I’ve been looking at this one card, a 2006 Bowman Prospects Cory Ragsdale. Ragsdale never made it to The Show, I’ve never seen him play, I don’t remember much about him, I have no personal or emotional connection to him, but he’s in my collection because Bowman listed him as a Met.  Is that a good enough reason? As the Magic 8 Ball might say, “Outlook not so good”.

Without going into great detail, I’m also giving a number of inserts and parallels the side eye.

Another quick pause for a 1970 card

A semi-nuclear option:  “Forget” The 1990’s.

I’ve sure you’ve all seen movies which have been cleaned up for television and had characters nonsensically yelling “Forget You!” and “Yeah?  Well, forget you too!” at each other.

I have to admit that there have been more than one occasion that I’ve looked at my collection, saw where most of the ‘bloat’ lies, and (after my internal ‘Network Censor’ kicks in) said “Aw, forget the Nineties”.  This is a decade that, with all honestly, gives me the most agita of any in my collection.

For starters, much of the decade involved, for me, more disposable income than obligations… so I bough a lot of cards… a LOTTA lotta cards.

But honestly… and I’m sorry, I know many of you love the 1990’s… it’s not a decade I look back at with a lot of fondness.  Card manufacturers were playing games of “LOOK AT ME!” One-upsmanship, with the result being me often saying “Ugh, do I *have* to look at you?”

BTW, this applies to the uniforms of the day as well, with teams like the Brewers visually grabbing you by the front of your shirt, shaking you and saying “I’m retro, dammit!  FRIGGIN’ NEO-TRADITIONAL!!!”

…And then there’s the whole debacle of 1994…

Long story short, I don’t know that I would ever go so far as to pitch all my cards from that decade, but there are days when it wouldn’t take much to get me to box up all of the nineties cards which aren’t from beloved sets and haul them off to Goodwill.

So, that’s all I have for today…

Do any of you have any suggestions or thoughts that might help a fellow collector who’s down on his luck?  (To quote Humphrey Bogart from whatever movie it is where he said something like that… or maybe it’s just the Looney Tunes parody of Humphrey Bogart that said it).