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Sunday, November 25, 2007

What About the Pistons?

I received a comment in response to saying that the Celtics are the best team in the East, saying that I forgot about the Pistons. First of all, thank you for reading, and for giving your feedback. I didn't forgot about Detroit, but I do think that their time in the spotlight is coming to a close. They've been a dominant force in the East for several years now, but I don't see them beating a team like Boston in a playoff series (they did lose to the Cavs in last season's Conference Finals 4-2). Unlike the Spurs (who have successfully endured over the years, and continue to do so), who have received some youth-infusion with Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili, the Pistons pretty much have the same aging line-up (not to say that Billups, Hamilton, Prince & Wallace aren't all excellent players, especially when playing together).

I do think that Detroit will be in the playoffs this year, and with the few number of decent teams in the East, they should move past the first round (unless they falter into the #7 or #8 spot). But I don't see them going to the Championships. I could very well be wrong (wouldn't be the first time!), but I'm predicting the Celtics to win the East.
Player Focus: Leandro Barbosa

Leandro Barbosa became of hot hobby commodity last season, as he went on to average 18.1 ppg in 32.7 mpg, coming off the bench for the Suns. So far this season, he hasn't lost a beat. Through his first 12 games, he's averaging 19.1 ppg in 33.7 mpg, again most of the time coming off the bench. Collectors have definitely taken notice . I saw one of his 03-04 Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch RC #'d 225 sell for $275 TAC last week, up from $200 just 2 weeks earlier. I also saw an 03-04 Topps Rookie Photo Shoot Auto sell for $111 last week, up from $94 just 1 week before.

My favorite Barbosa rookie is still his 03-04 SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1999. It's one of his few base rookies that show his extended signature (opposed to just "LB" or "LB#10"), and you can find them for pretty affordable prices ($15-20 TAC). His SPx RC peaked out last season in the $30's range, with a couple selling for $40+. I think that this card has the potential to reach $50+ this season, if he keeps up the hard work.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mighty Celtics Trio
By adding two veteran stars, Kevin Garnett & Ray Allen, to a healthy Paul Pierce, the Celtics have seemingly transformed themselves into the team to beat in the East. While enroute to an 8-0 start this season, we witnessed KG's 95-96 Finest RC (his best base rookie) average $64.60 TAC through 11/17, with a high of $87.55 (on 11/17). Then came the team's first loss on 11/18. His Finest RC has dropped to an averge of around $51 since then. We need to keep in mind though, that for the past how many seasons, this card could be easily found for less than $20 TAC.

Ray Allen's best base rookie, his 96-97 Topps Chrome RC, has not experienced the same growth in value that KG's has. It's been a steady seller this season for around $10-15 TAC (before & after the Celtics' 11/18 loss). Since Allen has rookie-year autos (which KG doesn't), collectors seem to be going after those cards instead. Allen's two rookie-year autos are his 96-97 Skybox Autographics and Skybox Emerald Auto; both with BV of $60. Right before the season started, I saw one of his Emerald auto's sell for $24.04 TAC. I then saw one of his Autographics auto's sell for $116.49 on 11/13. That's quite an amazing jump (384%) for just a two-week period of time.Paul Pierce hasn't seen any significant changes in his rookie values (maybe because he wasn't a new addition to the team?). His 98-99 SP Authentic RC #'d 3500 has consistently sold in the mid $20's since the preseason. One card that should really garner some big bucks is his 98-99 Topps Auto (his only rookie-year auto), if you can find one. I've been keeping my eye out for one for the past couple of years, and haven't found any.

Barring any injuries, I believe that the Celtics will be able to overcome the reinvigorated red-hot Magic to finish the season #1 in the East. They may even have a chance to beat the Spurs or Suns, or whoever ends up winning the West. My hobby prediction is that KG will continue to benefit the most from this newly created super-team, with Allen & Pierce finally getting at least a little of the hobby attention that they've always deserved.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Player Focus: Grant Hill

Grant Hill had a solid pre-season with the Suns, and has been averaging 14.9 ppg & 4.8 rpg in 34.9 mpg through his first 12 games of the regular season. Not too bad considering all that he's been through in the last several years. I'm just glad to see him back, healthy & playing well. Looking at the market, it would seem that collectors either still feel that Hill isn't playing up to expectation, or that his time has past and he is no longer hobby-viable. His 94-95 Finest RC, once a hobby must-have card, is only averaging around $7.50 TAC. Normally I would say this card is a steal at that price, but there is quite a bit of risk if you're planning on buying it as an investment. If you're just a Hill fan, go ahead and buy away!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2007 Cy Young Winners

Earlier this month C.C. Sabathia stunned many with his AL Cy Young win over World Series Champ Josh Beckett. Today, Jake Peavy became the first unanimous NL winner since Randy Johnson did it in '02 (12th ever in NL history).
Sabathia's sole rookie-year Auto, his 99 Topps Traded Auto, was a pretty consistent seller throughout the season, ranging from $42-54 TAC. Before the season, you could find them for around $30-40. I've only seen one for sale so far this month, currently listed for $39.99 (+$2.50 S&H), ending on 11/21. Beckett's 99 Ultimate Victory RC experienced significant growth at the end of the season, jumping from around $20 to the $30's range in October, before settling into the $20-25 range this month. His 00 SPx Auto #'d 1500 got a lot of hobby attention, jumping from $50 in September to the low $70's in October. Now they're selling for around $60 TAC.
Peavy's 01 Bowman Chrome Ref RC stayed in the $40-50 range for most of the season (no surprise since he was probably the most consistent pitcher in the majors this year), before dipping to around $38 in October, after he blew the tie-breaking Wild Card game against the Rockies. His 01 Topps Fusion Auto (his only rookie-year Auto) fell from around $160 in September, down to $107 in October.

For all three of these pitchers, their key rookies have become pretty scarce since the season ended. I'm guessing that prices will soften in the next few months (unless demand spikes with the holidays - well, maybe not with gas prices hitting record highs!), and there will be deals to be had for those who are patient. All three of these pitchers were listed on my "Top Pitcher Investments" posts back in July, on my blog & Sportslizard, so of course I think that all 3 of them will be baffling batters for years to come.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rookie Photo Shoot Autograph Cards

Up until this year, Topps had the lock on the "very unique" autographed cards from the Rookie Photo Shoot. Now Upper Deck has decided to get in into the game with their Rookie Debut Autographs, also signed at the Rookie Photo Shoot. They have print runs ranging from 77 to 130, and were inserted in packs of 07-08 Upper Deck, released last month.

Topps' inaugural set was introduced to the hobby in the 03-04 year, which turned out to be a prime choice of seasons with its stock of up-and-coming stars. The only downside was that it lacked the biggest rookie of that year, Lebron James (an Upper Deck auto exclusive). This set continued in 04-05 (again missing the top star of the class - Dwight Howard, another UD excl). In 05-06, they added some spark to the set with dual & triple Auto's (but it again missed the top star - Chris Paul, for the same reason). Last year, in 06-07, I would say that Topps had their biggest miss in the set's four-year history. It was missing Brandon Roy, Tyrus Thomas & LaMarcus Aldridge (I think all UD excl again).

I guess UD decided that it wasn't enough to just sign up the top stars from each class in exclusive Auto deals. They wanted to compete head-to-head and go after a piece of what little market share Topps still has in Basketball. I'm sure the Marketing team at UD did their homework and found that the Topps Rookie Photo Shoot set was still ranking pretty high in hobby stature, so naturally this would be their next course of action).

I'm not a collector of the Rookie Photo Shoot Autos, but I'm sure that those who are will jump all over this new offering from UD. There's a nice photo of the set in the November Beckett (pages 6-7). The big name missing is Greg Oden, who Topps signed an exclusive deal with, but since he's out for the season, I don't think it'll be that much of a turn-off for collectors (good try, but yet another miss for Topps!).

Topps had the right idea to insert these gems in their cheapest product line (which is probably heavily reliant on sales volume due to it's low pack price) in order to boost the brands' numbers. Kind of like how UD did with it's industry-pioneering game jerseys back in 97-98.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New & Improved Dodgers?

I heard on the news yesterday that there was a possibility that Andruw Jones and/or Johan Santana had a chance of going to the Dodgers. I'm a huge Jones fan, and I'd be thrilled to see him flourish under the leadership of Joe Torre & Don Mattingly. Maybe he'd be able to get back to hitting 40+ HR/season, like he did not too long ago. And anyone who's read my past postings about pitchers knows that I think Santana is one of the best 30 & under aces in the game. How many other 28-year-olds have 1381 K's in their career thus far? Not many (if any).

Both of these stars have spent their entire careers with the same team, and both have experienced frustrations recently, stemming from disappointing team results. A change in scenery might do them good. Los Angeles needs a spark or two (or three...), and these players could provide what they're lacking.

Jim, you asked not too long ago about Jones' 95 Bowman's Best RC card. I think that the Dodgers would provide a good platform for Jones' hobby status to relaunch from. LA is definitely going to get more attention next season, so it'll be a perfect chance for him to rejuvenate his game. His BB RC has averaged in the $19-22 range for the past several months. I think that it's potential value is probably in the $30-40 range, short term (over the next year).
Santana's top rookies from 00, Finest & Bowman's Best, have held pretty steady in recent, selling in the $65-70 & $55-60 TAC range respectively. Under the right circumstances, I think that these cards could potentially approach the $100 mark.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jenkins Not Returning to Brewers; M's Stupid to Let Guillen Go?

I was sad to hear that the Brewers aren't bringing Geoff Jenkins back next season. After being drafted by Milwaukee in '95, and getting called up to the bigs in '98, he went on to hit 212 HR over his career there (2nd most in team history behind Robin Yount, who had 251). For a lot of years, it seemed like Jenkins was the only big hitter the Brewers had. Now that they have a very talented young line-up & are contenders for the NL Central division, they're dumping him. Early in the '07 season, I was thinking how great it must be for Jenkins to finally be surrounded by good hitters, after enduring a 636-820 team record in his 9 years leading up to this season (similar to the feeling I had for Todd Helton this year). I've always been somewhat of a fan of Jenkins, and followed his career hoping that he would gain some hobby recognition. Maybe he'll get his chance on a team that will appreciate his skills & experience.

This weekend I was reading that the Mariners decided to decline their '08 contract option for Jose Guillen. My first thought was WHY? Guillen hit .290 (4th on team) with 23 HR (2nd on team) & 99 RBI (2nd on team), helping the M's to an 88-74 record (best since '03). I remember him hitting well in clutch situations, sometimes winning games for them. It sounds like the team wants to give their up-and-coming star Adam Jones a shot in outfield next season, and with Ichiro & Raul Ibanez locked up, it could be kind of crowded with Guillen there too. Since Guillen can still exercise his option to stay, and it seems like he's really found a comfort zone in Seattle, maybe he'll still have a chance to remain. I think that another big reason for the team not exercising his option was his $9 million salary for '08.

Both of these guys' rookie cards from '96 are probably trading in the "commons" price range, and would be a risky buy, given their uncertain futures and mid-career ages. I personally would like to see both of them do well, and gain some sort of hobby interest. But, as we all know, every season brings in a new crop of young future stars, so the number of veteran players that can hold collectors' attention inevitably decreases to make room for them. So, unfortunately, I would say that their time in the hobby has probably passed, but I wish them luck all the same.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

NBA Expectations

With the first week of the season almost complete, we've already seen the Lakers blow out the Suns by 21 in Phoenix, Gilbert Arenas blog about beating the Celtics on 11/2 (and then failing to do so), and of course the Kobe drama has been a constant underlying media irritation for who knows how long. Some of the things that I'm waiting to see this year ar
  • Will Tyson Chandler finally up his scoring numbers to go along with his double-digit rebounding, so he can become the hobby star he was expected to be?
  • Will Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson & cast be able to hold off the Jazz to stay atop the Northwest Division?

  • Will Grant Hill turn out to be the missing piece of the puzzle that has kept the Suns from winning a Championship?

Carlos Boozer has started the season off strong, averaging 31 points & 15.5 rebounds in his first two games. Kind of reminicent of last season. Hopefully (unlike last season), he'll be able to maintain it & stay healthy throughout the year. Last season Boozer's cards experienced the roller coaster effect, jumping early on when he was playing well, then falling when he got hurt, and never fully rebounding after he came back.

Marcus Camby, one of the best defensive players in the league, is averaging 18 rebounds & 5.5 blocks in his first two games of the season. I think that most of the hobby attention will be centered around Melo & AI if Denver is successful this season. That should keep Camby's cards in the realm of affordability. I'm going to be keeping my eye out for deals on his 96-97 Skybox Autographics Auto & Emerald Auto, his only rookie-year autos.

Leandro Barbosa was one of my favorite up-and-comers last season. He'll probably still come off the bench this year (especially with the addition of Grant Hill), but I think it'll be good for him in the long run, when that day finally comes for him to start. Barbosa can drive to the hoop or shoot the three, and he's one of the fastest guys out there while dribbling the ball. He had 23 points last night against the Lakers (although a lot of them came when the game was pretty much over), shooting 10-for-14 FG & 3-for-5 from 3-PT. I like his 03-04 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1999. It's one of only a few base Auto rookies that showcase his extended signature (opposed to his "LB" or "LB#10" sig).