Friday, October 24, 2014

Good Luck Ducks, Week 9: California Bound

The valley's gonna cure your every ill.

Oregon travels south to the Bay Area for their first ever visit to Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers as well as a college football team known as the California Golden Bears. While it's nowhere near the Berkeley campus, and there's a World Series game going in town, well... someone's bound to be around to watch this game, right? I mean, it's Friday night! Friday night football! Oh, er, I thought this night was usually reserved for the high school kids.

Last week's shellacking of the Huskies at the hands of the Ducks (11 straight) set right a lot of concerns about this Ducks team and put them back in the conversation for people that like to speculate on the sorts of things that won't be decided until December. Unfortunately, it ultimately comes down to this whole four team "playoff" selection committee. I'm not sure these guys will actually get anything right, and I'm afraid I'll actually be missing the days of the BCS reign of terror. Yikes.

After a 1-11 season that saw the Bears barely eke out a single win over the Portland State Vikings, clearly on par with one of the worst all-time seasons by any Pac-12 school ever, Cal has turned things around in a really weird way. They just barely beat conference doormats Washington State and Colorado in a myriad of Hail Marys and other desperate late game pass attempts. They kept things close against a surprising Arizona team and an underachieving UCLA team. And they, uh, beat Northwestern. They have the ability to score a lot, and Oregon's defense is still a work in progress. Given the advances that the Ducks have made since their first loss of the season a few weeks ago, however, I don't expect this to be too hotly contested.

Cal did not make this one interesting last year.

Game time is 7:00 PDT with national TV coverage on Fox Sports 1. Go Ducks!

Airbrushed Fridays: 1976 Topps Traded #58T

I've almost exhausted all of the '70s airbrushed cards I own. I should do something about this.

Who is he? Ron Reed was a pitcher with a short name and a long career. Debuting with Atlanta in 1966, Reed earned All-Star honors in 1968 and won his first and only World Series title in 1980. He's also in the company of Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz (and two others) as 100-win and 100-save pitchers who have thrown 50 complete games. He also played for the Detroit Pistons (basketball!) for three seasons early in his pro career.

How did he get here? Reed spent his first decade in a Braves uniform. A midseason trade found him in St. Louis in 1975, but he wouldn't stick with the Cardinals as they shipped him on to Philadelphia for Mike Anderson. It was as a member of the Phillies where Reed would find his greatest team success, as a World Series winner in 1980.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: 1976 Topps #58

Airbrushed Score: 5

Comments: The 'P' logo in any form has always been a difficult one to fake.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stadium Club is Okay, I Guess

An extremely myopic view of the latest Topps revival.

After reading a lot of rather negative things on the Twitter about this year's Topps Stadium Club release, I was expecting an envelope full of turds and razorblades when I won a couple of Listia auctions featuring these new cards. Instead, I think we're left with a set design that could have easily been 2004 Stadium Club or some other "lost" Stadium Club year.

I'm also basing my opinion on two cards won for peanuts on what's ostensibly a free/barter-style auction website and not something I sunk over $100 of real life money into. Stadium Club at its heart was always sort of a premium set, but not really a high end set exactly. At least, that's my overall impression of it. I quit collecting cards in 1993 and only resurfaced after the brand name had been retired. The zombie version that came out in 2008 wasn't bad looking, but was hilariously flawed as collectors spent either $20 a hobby pack or $2.99 a retail pack for mostly the same cards. (In some cases, $2.99 blasters were found, but this was like due to a Target pricing error and not a complete Topps screwup.)

This version, price points aside, at least looks like a credible sequel to what came before it a decade or two ago. We even get a distinct picture of the player on the back of the card. While I really don't like hobby exclusive sets because hobby stores are generally a painful and out-of-the-way experience around these parts, I don't mind these base cards. They do scan a little bit better than they look to the naked eye, though.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Good Luck Ducks, Week 8: A Decade of Dominance

After a rebound win, Oregon faces their bitter rivals to the north.

Admittedly, I was pretty down on the Ducks last week going into the UCLA game. Jake Fisher returned to the offensive line and made a huge difference, as Marcus Mariota was no longer sacked every other play and the Ducks grabbed a comfortable lead on unfriendly turf. I'm not entirely convinced all is right, as according to head coach Mark Helfrich, Oregon missed an alarming 24 tackles to the tune of 186 extra yards gained by the Bruins. Even uglier were the points put up in garbage time by UCLA, who was another recovered onside kick away from making things interesting in a game that was ridiculously out of control in the third quarter.

I'll tuck away my grumpiness for now, though, because it's Washington week. Back when I was still a teenaged college geek, I got to witness The Pick in person, which I can still say is the single greatest sports moment I've witnessed live. I'm not even sure what I've seen on TV that beats it, either. 20 years later, Oregon will be wearing throwbacks that resemble their 1994 jerseys on the field today, which fills me with even more warm-and-fuzzies. Not only that, but after 10 consecutive wins over the Huskies, things are lined up for a big time Ducks celebration night.

So nothing could horribly wrong, could it? Ah, but my lack of confidence still lingers. Oregon has shown an inability to tackle a scarecrow in the last couple of games, and the concerns about the offensive line probably aren't going away for the rest of the season. Marcus Mariota used to take off and run as an element of surprise, but now he's mostly doing it for survival. It's a good thing that he's incredibly fast for a quarterback, but I still have visions of Dennis Dixon's bones crumbling to dust whenever I see an Oregon QB run for his life.

Oh, but I haven't even mentioned the Huskies yet. Well, I'll let the above image speak for itself. The third column is the name of the team that was victorious, in case you couldn't figure it out. Steve Sarkisian bailed on the formerly elite Washington program to coach the formerly elite USC program this past offseason, and UW ended up luring Chris Petersen away from the sinking ship that is Boise State. Washington brings in a 5-1 record on the season, same as Oregon. The difference between these two programs right now couldn't be larger, however. With the amazing looking uniforms and a little extra bit of confidence, I think that this will be a solid win for the Ducks.

"Improbable!" The lesser seen TV broadcast of The Pick and the aftermath.

Game time is 5:00 PDT with national coverage on Fox Sports 1. Go Ducks!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Airbrushed Fridays: 2007 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH27

It's the first of four consecutive days without baseball. Thanks, Giants.

Who is he? Yusmeiro Petit is most currently known as the NL Pennant winning Giants safety valve. The Venezuelan came up as a starting pitcher, but has had little success at it in any of his three stops. The Giants moved him to a bullpen role for much of this season, but he's recently flourished in a long relief role.

How did he get here? Petit was an undrafted free agent and still very young at the time this card was printed. He came up with the Mets, but was involved in the Carlos Delgado trade which brought him to the Marlins. After a rocky debut (9.57 ERA), the Fish sent him to Arizona for Jorge Julio (yikes). Petit would spend a few years toiling with the Diamondbacks before dropping out of sight for a few more years. His claim to fame now is his 6 shutout innings in relief in an 18 inning NLDS game between the Giants and Nationals this month. He's found his way to the biggest stage with San Francisco now, and I don't think there's anyone who can't appreciate this kind of story -- even someone who wants to kill all things Giants with fire at the moment.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 8

Comments: Doesn't. Look. Real.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rooting for the (Previously) Unrootable

All eyes on you, Lackey.

I was pretty grumpy about the trade that brought John Lackey to the Cardinals as the non-waiver trade deadline approached. I was never a fan of the guy, and the trade sent away a popular cost-controlled young arm that had shown some promise in his time with the Cardinals. The Red Sox also received what's left of Allen Craig just to rub it in. And while I'm not going to argue that Joe Kelly could have or would have won a playoff game here in October, I know what I'm stuck with as I root for this team to battle their way through the playoffs.

While Lackey's results after joining the Cardinals were less than inspiring, the point has been made over and over again that St. Louis brought him over for his playoff voodoo. And yes, he has experience. And yes, he had a nice outing against the Dodgers and could well be one of the reasons I'm still watching National League baseball right now. At this time of year more than any, you just have to root for the uniform more than you root for the player. Lackey's the next man up tomorrow afternoon and I hope he leads the Cardinals to victory.

And it's not like John Lackey's kicked your puppy or anything, has he? I mean... look at that face. How could you hate that guy?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Good Luck Ducks, Week 7: Stagger or Swagger?

Following its first loss, cracks are starting to become crevasses.

Let's face it: Oregon is just not a very good team right now. Despite the fact that Oregon got completely hosed by officials against Arizona, the reasons the Ducks couldn't find a way to win against the Wildcats go far beyond some horrible (and rather vindictive feeling if you ask me) calls. The O-line can't protect anyone. They can't open any holes for their backs to get through. The Ducks simply can't play football the way they're accustomed to if this happens. Two straight games where Marcus Mariota has been repeatedly flattened and where the backs have had nowhere to run but straight into the backs of their own teammates (as well as the arms of their opponents) have proven that something is seriously wrong with the Green and Yellow (and Silver, Black, occasionally Pink... etc.)

The Ducks face a UCLA team with similarly lofty expectations, a highly touted quarterback (Brett Hundley) and heaps of protection problems of their own. It's almost like looking into a mirror, except that it's an ugly mirror of gold and powder blue and entitlement. I have no idea what to expect today, but I wouldn't be surprised if it somehow involves backup quarterbacks before the clock runs out.

With upsets happening en masse last week, the door is still wide open for both of these teams to climb back into playoff consideration. For that to happen, something big will need to change, and it will need to start today.

Oregon was dominant in last year's meeting. That seems like a long time ago.

Game time is 12:30 PDT with national coverage on FOX. Go Ducks!