Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen

The Topps Gypsy Queen is the one baseball retro products I really enjoy.  Even though there is a lack of action shots the look and feel of the design and photos is a big hit with me.  I grabbed a pack of the 2105 Gypsy Queen from Target that contained three packs (six cards each) and three framed cards.  Doesn't look like I got any of the short print or variations.  There are also plenty inserts though the only one I pulled was the Astros throwback card.  I like it when throwback jerseys are featured but these are in black and white which seems to negate some of the fun of seeing these great old styles.  Still I enjoyed the cards with my favorite being the Lou Gehrig card.  This is an iconic pose and a card I'll keep for my collection.  Another nice offering from Topps. 

2015 NBA Playoffs

I think this has been a great NBA season and I'm looking forward to the playoffs.  While I'd love to see the Spurs and Tim Duncan get one more championship I think we'll see a team win a championship this year that we haven't seen in some time.  There are so many teams that haven't won a championship or haven't in so long that I think I'll be happy no matter the outcome this year. 

You have to start with the Western Conference.  The elite teams reside there and I think Golden State could be the team that comes from the West.  That said there are truly six teams in the West who could win the conference.  I do think Golden State is the best of the lot but I also like San Antonio and Los Angeles to be right there among teams coming out of the West.  Unfortunately those two must play each other in the first round but that should be a great series.  This could be the year the Clips make a statement in the playoffs.  I'm not overlooking Houston but I think the loss of point guard Patrick Beverly will be their downfall.  Dwight Howard isn't the Dwight Howard of old which really means they'll really have to lean on James Harden.  You can get away with that in the first round but I think defenses will make life too tough on him as the playoffs progress.  Of course I'm really rooting for Portland but I'm worried about their depth after loosing key cog Wesley Matthews for the season. 

 In the East I'm definitely looking for my Hawks to make some noise.  That said as a long time Atlanta fan I'm already readying myself for disappointment.  That said they should be able to get past Brooklyn in the first round.  Cleveland should also make easy work of Boston while Chicago-Milwaukee and Toronto-Washington look to be better series.  I'm not sure who the Bullets are right now.  Their offense has struggled and I really like Toronto as a whole.  They have eight players who play 24 minutes or more a game which gives them nice depth which is key in the grind of the playoffs.  With Derrick Rose back Chicago should be able to get past Milwaukee but I do like this to be a close series that may go the max number of games. 

Bottom line is I think the following teams will move on - WEST - Golden State, Houston, Memphis, San Antonio | EAST - Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Toronto.  No huge upsets here.  San Antonio may be a six seed but they haven't played like one of late.  Have to give a shout out to the Pelicans making the playoffs.  Love Anthony Davis and hopefully this will be the first of many appearances for him and New Orleans. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Portland Trail Blazers Battle Memphis in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs

Portland goes into the playoffs banged up and not exactly on top of their game.  They've lost starting guard Wesley Matthews and Aaron Afflolo, who is expected to gain most of Matthews' minutes, has a bum shoulder.  Reserve forward Dorell Wright is also out due to injury while other key players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Kaman, and C.J. McCollum are also nicked up going into game one of their first round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.  I really don't know what to expect.  Memphis is a very good team.  Portland is too but has lost six of nine.  Afflolo hasn't exactly lit it up since being acquired from Orland though his three point percentage is a very good 40%.  When Matthews was in the lineup I'd put up their starting lineup against most in the NBA.  Now I'm not so sure. 

I think Memphis is a tough matchup with their bigs and is one of the best defenses in the league.  Portland will definitely have to play nothing short of an excellent series.  With two stars in Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge who can take over a game they are in good hands but I think a win in the first round will come about by team ball.  I'm just not sure Portland is deep enough to get past the Grizzlies who could wear Portland down with their stingy defense.  If Portland wins that probably means the series went six or seven games and that is what I'm hoping for. 

Atlanta Hawks Enter Playoffs As #1 Seed in the Eastern Conference

The Atlanta Hawks will play the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs after getting the #1 seed.  They won a club record 60 games this year.  That is amazing considering I doubt the best anyone had them prior to the season was coming in fourth in the Eastern conference.  I was totally taken by surprise as my post prior to the season proves.  I'm still in shock and to be honest I've been scared to post anything because I didn't want to jinx the team.  Well I'm posting now but I'm hoping that by waiting 'till after the season I won't jinx them and their playoff run.  We'll see.  Considering the owner and general manager issues before the season you could really see this team, which while talented isn't really the prettiest on paper, wasn't picked to win the Eastern conference.  Still they did and coach Mike Budenholzer deserves much of the credit.  It is one thing to just be a Spurs ex-coach and philosophy guy but to implement it with this Atlanta Hawks roster and win 60 games he deserves all the credit in the world. 

We'll get the negatives out of the way first.  Atlanta has lost forward Thabo Sefolosha for the year due to injury and Atlanta has struggled of late losing 8 of their last 15 games.  Paul Milsap is also suffering from a banged up shoulder playing in only one of the final six games.  The good news is the Hawks get the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.  This is a team Atlanta should beat and shouldn't have to sweat too much doing it.  That statement could really come back to haunt me but this team has played too well this year to think they should falter now.  The second round matchup would definitely be a tougher draw with Atlanta either playing Toronto or Washington. 

The big thing is Atlanta has to get past the issues of late.  They didn't let the issues I mentioned earlier get to them so now isn't the time to swoon.  The five starters have looked great as a unit.  More than ever they must embrace the "team" mentality that got them to where they are.  I just can't believe all their success this year will go for nothing.  Here's hoping I'm not wrong.  The NBA needs teams like the Hawks who play so well as a collective.  No megastar.  Just a team playing great together. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2014-2015 Upper Deck Hockey Series 2

I don't look at hockey cards much but I always like to take a look when I get a chance.  To that end I picked up an eight card pack of the 2014-2015 Upper Deck Hockey Series 2.  I won't go into great detail but I really do like these cards.  Very good photography on the front with a prominent team logo combined with a  nice design on the back and I'm in.  I'm not the biggest hockey guy so I doubt I'll pick up more but I highly recommend these to those hockey fans out there.  Upper Deck consistently puts out a nice card and these are no different. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2014-2015 Panini Threads Basketball

The 2014-2015 Panini Threads were released this week.  I believe I heard these were only available at Target which is where I grabbed two packs for $3.99 each.  The each contained 10 cards.  A bit pricey but that is about all I'll complain about with these.  The photography on the front contains great action shots which is always a good thing.  The team logo is located in the top right or left of the card (random?) with the players name on against a vertical stripe background.  Both colors are team appropriate.  The Panini Threads logo is at the bottom centered between a collection of team colored stripes going to the sides at an angle.  I like the design which gives plenty of room for the photos.  The only thing missing is the player's position but that is a minor detail.
The back is also nice with the standard Panini collection of last year's stats and career totals at the bottom.  The card number, team logo, player personal stats and NBA logo are at the top left while a black and white version of the front photo fill up 2/3 of the upper part of the card.  The player's name is below the photo with a small write up below that.  Nice back.  Nothing special but considering Panini will never give us more than two lines of stats I like the photo and how the back is arranged.
 I pulled two inserts and two of the retired players featured in the set (Hakeem Olajuwon and Joe Dumars).  The inserts were a Gary Payton Century Great and Andrew Wiggins High Flyers card.  All four are nice cards with the old-timers being included in the base set being favorites of mine.  Looking at the checklist there are plenty of insert sets available in this version of Threads.  While the price point is a bit high for me I'll definitely pick up more of this set.  I did see the premium box which sells for $120 but couldn't pull the trigger.  Now it is even more enticing.  Nice design, great photos and plenty of insert options equals a good card set in my book.  Go getcha some!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pete Rose - Should he be reinstated?

Pete Rose has requested to be reinstated to Major League Baseball.  I think it is time that he is.  New baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is in a good spot to do just that.  Time and enough commissioners have passed to allow him to reverse the decision.  While I understand the punishment Rose was given it just seems right that he be allowed to return to baseball.  Maybe he isn't allowed to hold a paid position with a team but let him be part of MLB again to include on field activities and baseball promotions.  With this I would think the Baseball Hall of Fame would follow suit and allow Rose to be voted on once again.  Not sure if he'd make it but I think he deserves the chance to be voted on.  His numbers are so overwhelming and the betting was not something that affected his play on the field. 

Rose is no saint.  He has hurt himself quite a bit during the whole process.  He lied for decades before finally admitting to what he did.  One of my biggest issues I've had with him was when he hocked his book at Cooperstown the weekend Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor were inducted (2004).  This was classless and took away from two deserving stars in their finest hour.  He has definitely not helped himself but still it seems time.  He isn't as bad as anyone makes him out to be and not as good as those who defend him claim.  But he is in the twilight of his life and I believe now is the time to allow him to enjoy some of the fame he is due because of his on the field skills.  I don't know how long Rob Manfred will take to make a decision but hopefully it won't take too long.  I look forward to seeing what is decided. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Braves Trade Kimbrel and Upton to San Diego

The Braves continued the job of rebuilding, or tearing down as many see it, as they traded away Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to San Diego.  This one hurt.  Kimbrel's is signed through 2017 averaging $10.5M a year over the life of the contract (4 yrs).  I really thought Atlanta would hold on to him and he'd be a Brave for a long time.  Kimbrel is a stud closer and will be near impossible to replace.  Still the crux of the deal was shedding Upton Jr. and his contract one of the worst in the league, if not the worst.  The guy couldn't hit my weight in his time in Atlanta.  He was an absolute disaster at the plate.  I wish him well and hope he can turn it around but his time in Atlanta was not good.  I know everyone is looking towards 2017 when the Braves move into their new ballpark and the belief is all these young prospects will be ready to shine.  That is a lot of "ifs" for me. Way too many prospects never hit it big.  I just hope we aren't looking back two years from now thinking this was all for not. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

2015 Topps Opening Day

It is only fitting that I take a look at the 2015 Topps Opening Day cards on today, the opening day of the 2015 major league baseball season.  I've picked up two of the 24 card packs as well as a standard seven card pack.  I've already reviewed the base set here and I do like these cards.  The Opening Day brand is just as nice.  The photos are great and seeing players in their new unis is exciting. 
I pulled some inserts some of which are below.  They included Stadium Scenes which are pictures taken by fans and then selected by Topps to be included in this year's set.  I like this as it is different and has to be a thrill for those whose photos were chosen.  I pulled a Andrew McCutchen Opening Day Stars card which is a hologram.  I also grabbed a few mascot cards of which my favorite was the TC Bear card.  I also pulled a couple of the blue parallel cards.  There are plenty of other insert sets and I was really hoping to pull a Franchise Flashback card, specifically that of Atlanta Brave Craig Kimbrel.  No such luck. Might have to do some eBay shopping.   Relic cards are also part of the set though I didn't pick any up.  I also would have liked to have pulled a Superstars Celebration or Team Spirit card. 
I'll probably pick up more of these.  This is a fun little set that I enjoy purchasing each year.