• Cactus League Moneyball: Did Dollars Impact Wins In 2014?

    Team 2014 Payroll* 2014 Record Playoffs?
    Los Angeles Dodgers $241 M 94-68 NLDS (lost 1-3 vs. STL)
    San Francisco Giants $148 M 88-74 World Series Champions (4-3 vs. KC)
    Texas Rangers $132 M 67-95 -
    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim $128 M 98-64 ALDS (lost 0-3 vs. KC)
    Cincinnati Reds $112 M 76-86 -
    Arizona Diamondbacks $112 M 64-98 -
    Milwaukee Brewers $103 M 82-80 -
    Colorado Rockies $100 M 66-96 -
    Chicago White Sox $90 M 73-89 -
    Kansas City Royals $90 M 89-73 World Series (lost 3-4 vs. SF)
    San Diego Padres $90 M 77-85 -
    Seattle Mariners $90 M 87-75 -
    Cleveland Indians $83 M 85-77 -
    Oakland Athletics $77 M 88-74 AL Wildcard (lost vs. KC)
    Chicago Cubs $75 M 73-89 -

    *Rounded to Nearest Million $

    Word Cloud 2014 Team Salaries

    The 15 MLB Teams of the Cactus League and their relative team salaries. The Dodgers had the highest payroll in 2014 (and all of MLB), while the Cubs had the lowest of all Cactus League teams.


  • Kansas City Royals Release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

    November 26, 2014 – Some good news just before Thanksgiving for Royals fans looking to drown their sorrows in gravy tomorrow, the Kansas City Royals have released their 2015 Spring Training Schedule. Having just come up short in a seven-game thriller against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, the beginning of Spring Training marks a fresh season for Royals fans who have been working to get the bad taste out of their mouths.

    A hot young team, loaded with speed and talent, Kansas City is sure to be a main draw in the Cactus League this year. The Royals will kick off their exhibition season on March 4 in a charity game versus fellow Surprise Stadium occupants, the Texas Rangers. March 22 will be a marquee match-up when the Royals seek revenge at home against the Giants.

    Individual game tickets go on sale December 15 and can be purchased here, in-person at Surprise Stadium, or by calling (623) 222-2222.

    KC Royals Schedule2015

     

  • Colorado Rockies 2015 Spring Training Schedule Now Available

    November 26, 2014 –

     

    DAILY DOUBLE: “We finished 66-96 and were the runners-up to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks for the distinction of being Major League Baseball’s worst team last season.”

    … “and strangely coincidental, we share the primo of primo Spring Training facilities with them.”

    THE QUESTION:  Who are the Colorado Rockies?

    That is correct!

    Colorado Rockies 2015 Schedule

    Apparently a luxurious training facility does not a winning team make. Or winning teams, in this case. For Colorado, the proverbial “roller coaster of a season” ended with more than just a ‘rocky’ ride to the finish – it crashed and banged and went straight off the rails! But fear not Rockies fan! Dust off your purple foam fingers, fold up your silver short-sleeved tees, and pack up a spare hip for your star shortstop, because your Colorado Rockies have released their 2015 Spring Training schedule! … Oh no! What’s that? The Yankees are rumored to be chasing Tulo? On second thought, you might want to unpack that bag and wait this thing out. Your team could be headed for a repeat.

    Fortunately, that’s what makes Spring Training trips so special. It doesn’t matter what happened last year, it doesn’t matter what’s being said about your team in the news, and it doesn’t matter what Jeopardy answer they were a question about (does that sound as weird to read as it did to type?), because in March it’s about one thing: Baseball under the sun.

    The Rockies kick off Spring Training with a pair of day games against the D-Backs at Salt River Fields on March 4 and 5. For more information about tickets, visit Rockies.com/spring .

     

     

  • Diamondbacks 2015 Spring Training Schedule Released

    November 26 2014 – Arizona baseballs fans have something to be thankful for as the Diamondbacks 2015 Spring Training schedule has just been released… and right in time for Turkey Day! What better topic for discussion around the dinner table than planning which games you’re going to hit next March?

    AZdbacks_Spring_Schedule

    The Diamondbacks return to the posh facility that is Salt River Fields at Talking Stick – the Cactus League’s most state-of-the-art training complex. The team will kick off its spring schedule on March 3 with an exhibition game against Pac-12 baseball powerhouse, the Arizona State Sun Devils, followed by a pair of games against fellow Salt River training friendlies, the Colorado Rockies on March 4 and 5.

    The D-Backs will wrap up Spring Training with a two-game set against the Cubs on April 3 and 4 at Chase Field.

    Individual game tickets will go sale January 10 and can be purchased online, in person, or over the phone at 888-490-0383.

  • 2015 Cleveland Indians Spring Training Schedule Released: Thanksgiving Edition

    November 23, 2014 – The Cleveland Indians have released their 2015 Spring Training schedule. Coming off of back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2000 – 2001, perhaps this Spring will set the table for that elusive Autumn Feast in October – the one that winning teams wash down with champagne after devouring their opponent for four courses. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, that’s a meal they haven’t eaten since 1948, or roughly the same year the Indians faced off against the Pilgrims at the dinner table at Plymouth Rock.

    The voyage toward the feast is tentatively scheduled to begin on February 18, when pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear Ballpark, with the Spring opener slated for March 3 in a match-up with fellow Goodyear trainees, the Cincinnati Reds. Individual game tickets going on sale December 6 and can be purchased here or by contacting the Goodyear Ticket Office at (623) 882-3130.

    It was the late, great (Giants fan) Robin Williams who once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s party’!” We couldn’t agree more. So since it’s a fairly slow news day amongst teams in the Cactus League and the members of The Wolfpack are always looking ahead to the ultimate Spring party, in honor of Thanksgiving we’ve decided to conclude this article with a game of, “Create The 2015 Spring Training Marketing Campaign for the Cleveland Indians”.

    And since we love to date ourselves, here’s our entry: “A TRIBE Called Quest: Can I Kick It Off? Yes, You Can!” … Now does anyone know a good video editor who can replace Phife Dawg‘s Braves jersey with an Indians one? And also, video credit to “2pacShakurImmortal”, whom we’ve confirmed is surprisingly NOT Rakeman #2.

    Have a better Spring Training slogan for the Indians? Of course you do! Leave it in the comments section while we go prepare the third gallon of turkey gravy… HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

  • Pablo Sandoval Update: Is the Panda Trading Rice for Beans?

    November 22, 2014 – If Rice-A-Roni is truly the San Francisco treat, it sounds like there could be a lot more of it left to consume around AT&T Park next year if Pablo Sandoval takes his appetite to Boston. A deal has reportedly been offered in the area of 5 years, $95 million for the clutch-hitting third baseman.

    Good news for Bay-area rice lovers. Bad news for Boston-area Baked Bean lovers.

    Bad, bad news for Bay-area Panda lovers. Stay tuned…

    November 24, 2014 [UPDATE] – The Panda has reportedly opted for Beans over Rice. Allegedly, the Padres were in the running too, but were they ever really? Farewell to a Cactus Leaguers legend. We’ll miss you, Pablo. We hear grapefruits taste better than cacti, so you have that to look forward to.

    Pablo Sandoval

     

  • Cincinnati Reds Release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

    November 21, 2014 – The Cincinnati Reds had a rough go of it in 2014, with a record of 76-86, edged out only by the Chicago Cubs for the lowly “honor” of occupying last place in the NL Central. Fortunately for Reds fans, the team has released it’s 2015 Spring Training schedule and is ready to reset and move forward. The new beginning kicks off for the Reds on March 3 at Goodyear Ballpark against fellow Goodyear trainees and Ohio residents, the Cleveland Indians.

    The 19-game exhibition schedule will tentatively play out between March 3 – April 2, and includes a March 16 meeting with the World Series Champion, San Francisco Giants. At the conclusion of Spring Training, the Reds will head north to Canada to take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a pair of exhibition games before officially launching their 2015 season on April 6.

    Single game tickets go on sale December 6. Reds and Indians fans also have the chance to participate in Goodyear FanFest this year, which will be held on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day). FanFest is an exciting opportunity for fans to meet players, participate in on-field activities, enjoy a bite to eat, and get a behind-the-scenes tour of Goodyear Ballpark. For more information, call 623-882-3130.

    You’re certain to catch The Wolfpack if you make the trek to Goodyear. The facility is a Cactus Leaguers’ favorite, and if you’re into grounds crews, which we certainly are, there’s none better than our turf-tending buddies at Goodyear – where Orange Shoes are put to the test and Rakemen are born.

    IMG_4084

     

     

  • San Francisco Giants Release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

    November 19, 2014 – It’s only been 22 days since the trophy was hoisted, champagne corks were popped, and the Maddest of Bums put his stamp on baseball history as the San Francisco Giants were crowned World Series Champions for the third time in five seasons, but the Giants are already laying the groundwork for a repeat run to glory, having released their 2015 Spring Training schedule today.

    The Spring season of games kicks off on March 3 against Bay-area friendlies, the Oakland Athletics in Mesa, and concludes on April 1, with the Giants hosting the Cleveland Indians in Scottsdale. The tentative schedule has the Giants playing games on 29 dates throughout March and into April. Key games include a pair of rematches with World Series opponents, the Kansas City Royals on March 22nd at Surprise Stadium and again on March 23 at the Giants’ home training facility, Scottsdale Stadium. San Francisco will also face division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers on three separate dates throughout their Spring campaign.

    Winning breeds enthusiasm – something Giants fans have in abundance. If you’re planning a trip to the desert this March, be sure to have a Scottsdale home game on your lineup card. You’ll be in for loads of entertainment. Giants fans are known to travel well and are always certain to create a dynamic, fun atmosphere for watching a ballgame. We recommend sparing a few extra bucks and securing an all-inclusive food/drink ticket in the Charro Lodge if you can get one. You can bet The Wolfpack will be doing the same.

    Single-game tickets for games at Scottsdale Stadium will go on sale Jan. 13 and can  be purchased by phone at 1-877-4SFGTIX, online, or in person at either the Giants box office at AT&T Park or all Giants Dugout Stores.

    If purchasing in Arizona, tickets will be sold at the Scottsdale Stadium box office.

    As a bonus to the Giants faithful, the team also offers the only officially endorsed travel packages to Spring Training in the Cactus League. Packages include game tickets, hotel accomodations and ground transportation. For more information, fans can call 800-670-0858 or visit www.sfgiants.com.

    San Francisco Giants_Team News

  • Texas Rangers Release 2015 Spring Training Schedule Schedule

    November 17, 2014 – Decimated with injuries throughout 2014, Rangers fans get to take their first step toward a new season today as the team has released it’s 2015 Cactus League Spring Training schedule.

    The Rangers will open Spring ball on March 4 with a game against fellow Surprise Stadium occupants, and 2014 American League Champions, the Kansas City Royals. As part of a 34-game training schedule, the team will abandon it’s temporary home in the Arizona desert to play four games back in Texas. Two will be played in San Antonio on March 21 and 22 versus the Los Angeles Dodgers and two more will be played at home in Globe Life Park against the New York Mets on April 3 and 4.

    Tickets for Spring Training games go on sale December 15 and may be purchased by visiting www.texasrangers.com, by calling 623-222-2222, or in person.

    Texas Rangers 2015 Schedule

  • Milwaukee Brewers Looking Ahead To 2015, Release Spring Training Schedule

    Brewers 2015 Schedule The Milwaukee Brewers have given fans a lot to look forward to in 2015. Having finished with a record of 82-80 last season, only eight games behind the NL Central Champion, St. Louis Cardinals, the Brew Crew will look to craft a playoff contender when they launch their Spring Training season in Arizona on March 4th.

    Back in the familiar confines of the Maryvale Baseball Park, the Brewers will open Spring Training playing host to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team, and will wrap up on Saturday, April 4th at a home game versus the Cleveland Indians. The tentative full schedule can be found here.

    Tickets go on sale Monday, December 8th at Brewers.com and by phone at 1-800-933-7890. Sales at the Maryvale Baseball Park Box Office will begin on Monday, February 9, 2015. Tickets are available in four seating areas: Field Box ($23), Infield Reserved ($17), Outfield Reserved ($13) and Lawn Seating ($8). In addition, there will also be a limited number of advanced parking passes available for $5.  Information on Spring Training Season Tickets can be obtained by calling the Milwaukee Brewers ticket office at 414-902-4000.

    We’ll see you in the desert, Brew Crew Nation!

  • Dodgers Prepare For A Do-Over, Release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

    The Los Angeles Dodgers, having come up short in 2014 losing three games to one in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, have taken their first step to recovery by releasing their 2015 Spring Training schedule.

    Dodgers News

    In the midst of a 26-year World Series drought, the Dodgers are set to rain down on the Arizona desert and open Spring Training on March 4th versus fellow Camelback Ranch occupants, the Chicago White Sox.

    The Dodgers are set to play 30 Spring Training games, with 17 of them happening in Glendale at Camelback Ranch. Mini-Plans, Season Tickets, and Group Outings are on sale now and can be purchased here. To purchase luxury suites, or to speak directly with a ticketing representative, please contact the Camelback Ranch-Glendale box office at (623) 302-5000. Single-game tickets go on sale on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.

    As always, the Wolfpack will be on the prowl! See you in March, Dodger fans!

    UPDATE (11/13/14): The Dodgers announced today that they’ll be altering their previously released Spring Training schedule by playing two games against the Texas Rangers at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX on March 20 and 21. Games are still scheduled in Arizona on these two dates, so it’s unclear whether the Dodgers will split-squad and play games in both places, or cancel the games in Arizona. Check back for updates.

     

     

  • Chicago White Sox Release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

    Today the Chicago White Sox released their 2015 Spring Training Schedule with a March 4th Cactus League opener against fellow Camelback Ranch trainees, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Sox will train in Arizona through April 1st, with two additional exhibition games on April 2nd (Arizona Diamondbacks) and April 3rd against their AAA affiliate, Charlotte Knights.

    Mini-Plans, Season Tickets, and Group Outings are on sale now and can be purchased here. To purchase Luxury Suites, or to speak directly with a ticketing representative, please contact the Camelback Ranch-Glendale box office at (623) 302-5000. Single-game tickets go on sale on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.

  • San Diego Padres Announce Opening Day For Spring Training

    Padres 2015 Schedule

    Today the San Diego Padres announced that March 4th will be Opening Day for their 2015 Spring Training campaign, when the Padres are set to do battle at the newly-renovated Peoria Sports Complex with fellow Peoria park-mates, the Seattle Mariners. The 22nd annual charity game is tentatively scheduled for 1:05pm local time. The Padres’ full Spring Training schedule and tickets are set to be released soon. Check back with us for more details.

    UPDATE (11/12/14): San Diego Padres release full 2015 Spring Training Schedule and ticket info:

    Padres spring training schedule

    • March 4: SEA, Peoria
    • March 5: SEA, Peoria
    • March 6: CWS, Peoria
    • March 7: SF, Scottsdale Stadium
    • March 8: COL, Peoria
    • March 9: CHC, Cubs Park
    • March 10: SF, Peoria
    • March 11: KC, Surprise Stadium
    • March 12: LAD, Peoria
    • March 13: LAA, Tempe Diablo Stadium
    • March 14: TEX, Peoria
    • March 15: CLE, Goodyear Ballpark
    • March 16: CHC, Peoria
    • March 17 (split squad): MIL/Peoria, OAK/Phoenix Municipal Stadium
    • March 18: COL, Salt River Fields
    • March 20: KC, Peoria
    • March 21: ARI, Peoria
    • March 22: CHC, Cubs Park
    • March 23: CWS, Peoria
    • March 24: SEA, Peoria
    • March 25: LAD, Camelback Ranch
    • March 26: ARI, Salt River Fields
    • March 27: COL, Peoria
    • March 28: TEX, Surprise Stadium
    • March 29: SEA, Peoria
    • March 30: CIN, Goodyear Ballpark
    • March 31: KC, Peoria
    • April 1: CWS, Camelback Ranch
    • April 2: MIL, Peoria

     

    Tickets for all spring training games will be available beginning Dec. 20 padres.com/spring or by phone at 800-677-1227. The Peoria Sports Complex ticket office will open on Jan. 10. Individual game tickets range from $5 to $29 with discounts available for group purchases and ticket packages.

  • Seattle Mariners Release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

    Mariners 2015 Schedule

    Coming off a 2014 season in which the Mariners reached their highest win total (87) since 2007 (88), good for 3rd in the AL West and just missing the Wild Card, M’s fans have a lot to look forward to in 2015. Why wait til’ Opening Day to witness it? Beginning March 4th, Seattle fans can crash the desert to begin chasing October. The full 2015 Mariners Spring Training schedule was just released, so in between Russell Wilson touchdown passes and venti macchiatos, start planning your trip to Peoria NOW! We’ll see you there!

  • Oakland A’s Announce 2015 Spring Training Schedule & New Stadium

    Oakland2015Tix

    The Oakland Athletics make their 2015 Cactus League debut Tuesday, March 3 at newly renovated Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona.

    The A’s will play 15 of their 30 Cactus League games at 10,000-seat Hohokam Stadium, which was part of $26.9 million in renovations, including the Fitch Park minor league complex. This will be the A’s first season as part of a 20-year agreement with the City of Mesa. The A’s new spring training home will feature approximately 7,500 new seats and approximate space for an additional 2,500 spectators to sit on the grass berms surrounding the outfield. Upon entering Hohokam, fans will also discover new amenities such as the largest HD scoreboard in the Cactus League (26 x 56 feet), new shaded areas for groups, a brand new flagship team shop, and automated ticketing kiosks. Secure A’s Spring Training season tickets in the inaugural year at Hohokam Stadium. Season tickets and group seating of 20 or more are now available.

    Single game tickets, which will go on sale Wednesday, December 10, will be priced dynamically and will fluctuate based on factors affecting supply and demand.

  • Baseball Cards: Call It A Comeback

    Timeless and forever unquestioned by this Cactus Leaguer are the immortal words of one LL Cool J and his rapsterpiece, “Mama Said Knock You Out” :

    “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years. Rockin’ my peers and puttin’ suckas’ in fear…”

    Don’t call it a comeback. Never would I ever dare. In 1990, I remember actually spending brain time on this lyrical directive. Don’t call it a comeback. Ladies Love Cool James! If dude has the confidence to rock a name like that, who would ever have the stones to question whether he had ever even faded? Not this guy. Certainly not back then.

    I grew up in the 80’s and was a teen in the 90’s. Through dual cassette decks and MTV, I took lessons from these decade’s finest teachers – professors like LL, Jon Bon Jovi, Vince Neil and David Lee Roth. If they spoke, I listened, and if I learned anything at all, I learned that the greatest things in life don’t ever fade.

    And then there’s baseball cards.

    Depending on your age, you may have a pretty good sense of the Baseball Card Revolution. If your formative years occurred pre-1980, my condolences – you’re miserable. You’re the guy who loves his mother, who would do anything for her, but secretly, deep, deep down, houses a bit of boiling, festering, volcanic hostility toward her. She gave you life, but she also took some of it away. Why Ma? Why did you have to throw away my baseball card collection? You’re THAT guy and you ask yourself this question at the same frequency intervals you check your retirement portfolio at, because make no mistake – the two events may as well be financially-conjoined twins.

    If the 80’s were your formative decade, you might have done okay. You learned from your father’s mother’s mistakes – the one’s your Pops routinely cautioned you about every time he and his buddies got together to reminisce about their baseball card-collecting-youths. So you were smarter – you bought your cards, you found houses for them in three-ring binders and neatly preserved them – three rows wide, three rows deep, in crisp plastic pages. Whether this was your call or your dad’s demand has no actual bearing here. No way in H-E-Double-Baseball-Bats was your dad’s mom’s mistake going to be repeated. No way were you ever going to have to recycle your father’s 13-word audible death sentence: “If my mom hadn’t thrown away my cards, I’d be retired by now.”

    But herein is where the trouble layeth. Preservation and caution did not lead to the promised financial spoils to be derived in 2.5″ x 3.5″ cardboard bullion. No, no, no. Preservation and caution led to the death and destruction of baseball card values as we once knew them. Piss right off, irony.

    Pre-1980 card companies were printing plenty of product, but the supply was controlled by anti-pack-rat mothers who tossed out their kids’ collections. By the time those kids grew up, any chance of their 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie card having grown up with them, were long, long gone. Supply was gone, so demand was up – simple economics. I speak from experience. My parents divorced when I was young and to this day, my dad still swears that my mom sold his beloved, suitcase-entombed, Babe Ruth-laden, collection upon their split – a claim my mom vehemently denies. She thinks it was tossed, along with most everything else in our basement when it flooded in the early 80’s. As a coping mechanism, part of me clings onto to hope that it will magically resurface one day. Some people pray for world peace. I pray for this. [Editor Introspective: How incredibly hard was it to type “Babe Ruth” just then? F, dash, dash, dash. You deserve a Pulitzer for this. Power through it, power through it…]

    The 1980’s. The beginning of the end.

    But if plenty of product was being printed before the 80’s, you can imagine the volumes card companies were actually printing in the 80’s (I’m typing to YOU, 1987 Topps). And if the card companies knew that collectors were committed to not making the same mistakes as their predecessors, they were certainly going to take advantage of it. Card collecting literally became more about printing money and less about owning a piece of history. Supply was up, but so too was demand and preservation. Just as Einstein is credited with conceiving the formula for mass-energy in E=mc2, then Topps and 80’s collectors should share credit for birthing the formula for baseball card devaluation in Supply+Demand+Preservation=$0.

    You know it. You loathe it. 1987 Topps.

    You know it. You loathe it. 1987 Topps.

    The 1990’s – Nice Try

    Which brings us to the 90’s. Oh…the 90’s – the decade that card collecting wish it could forget. By this time, Topps had plenty of company to help diminish the planet’s supply of ink and cardboard. Brands like Fleer, UpperDeck, Donruss and Score, along with their sub-brands, were all churning out products by the caseload and the days of sub .50 cent packs were all but gone. Competition among card companies was fierce and in order to try and gain an edge in market share, an evolution toward controlled scarcity started to manifest. In addition to the regular release cards that made up a standard base set, card manufacturers began to release “parallel cards”, or a more limited variation on the base card. So for example, if a box of cards contained 36 packs and each pack contained 12 cards, then 11 of them might be base cards within the set and one of them might be a more limited, parallel version of a base card. So technically, fewer of the parallel variety were printed, and for the diehard collectors, it would mean they’d have to buy way more product if they had aspirations of collecting a complete parallel base set. Brilliant economic move by the card companies. Disastrous move for the value of the base card.

    90’s card collecting can be best summed up like this: If you’re in your 30’s to 50’s and you’re holding out hope that those boxes and binders of 90’s cards in your basement are going to fund your retirement one day, there’s no eloquent way of putting it. You’re screwed.

    The 2000’s – Creating Scarcity

    Toward the end of the 90’s, card manufacturers made more of a commitment to creating subsets and limited-run “chase cards” or “inserts” – things like holograms, certified player autographs, refractors, die-cuts and more. These cards would be randomly inserted into packs at varying intervals, with the odds of finding one ranging from 1:2 packs to 1:12 packs to 1:36 packs to 1:1 case, and everywhere in between. It wasn’t uncommon for a pack of cards to cost a few dollars vs. a few quarters. Scarcity is associated with prestige and prestige is associated with higher cost.

    This trend only got stronger with the new millennium. Serious card collecting in the 2000’s has literally been redefined as Insert Card collecting. Base cards still exist, but are all but castaways or pass-downs to amateur collectors who care more about the player on the card and less about what it’ll be worth one day. In addition to the types of cards being produced, the 2000’s introduced and mainstreamed four other game-changing elements that began to redefine the marketplace:

    1) eBay. Though launched in the mid-90’s, eBay redefined the card collecting market in the 2000’s. Prior to eBay, collectors primarily turned to Beckett pricing guides to check the high and low values of their cards, but the prices were only as current as their publication dates and it wasn’t always decipherable to know what was driving the prices. eBay came along and created a real-time marketplace for collectors to 1) find buyers, and 2) determine the true market values for their cards. Not only did collectors have vast opportunities to find cards they sought, but they also had a simple way to get rid of the ones they didn’t. eBay became the Stock Exchange for the card market, which unfortunately and with few exceptions, also meant the end of baseball card shops.

    2) Graded Cards. One way to create scarcity is to change the conditions of the cards themselves. This isn’t anything new – everyone can tell the difference between a card with crisp edges, clean corners and perfect centering to one that lacks these characteristics, but the determination of the impact of each of characteristic was always subjective. Who was to say if a card was really, truly, in mint condition? The aforementioned Beckett and Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), that’s who.

    Beckett Graded: 2012 Bowman Platinum Relic Autographs, Mike Trout

    Beckett Graded: 2012 Bowman Platinum Relic Autographs, Mike Trout

    For a fee, collectors can now send in their cards to a professional grader at one of these companies who will analyze a card’s Centering, Edges, Corners and Surface to generate a composite grade on a 10 scale. The card is then encased in hard plastic, cataloged, and shipped back to it’s owner. It stands to reason that fewer mint cards survive over time, so those that do are rewarded with higher values from collectors. As long as a mint card remains encased by it’s grader, it’s condition remains guaranteed (although there’s conflicting opinions about what that actually means. See the notorious Honus Wagner T206 case). These grading companies can also inspect and grade a player’s autograph – whether it was pulled-certified from a pack, or was obtained in person. It’s worth noting that as far as collector value goes, a pack-pulled autograph is almost always worth more than the sentimental one that was received in person. When it comes to dollar value, collectors don’t reward sentimentality. They want certification.

    3) Serial-Numbered Cards. Placing a manufacturer-certified serial number on a card exposes the collector to the true print run of the card. In most cases, serial numbers are absent on base cards and are almost always present on inserts. Serial numbers can range in the thousands or be limited down to true 1 of 1’s, meaning it’s entirely possible for collectors to seek out exclusive, one of a kind cards from manufacturers.

    4) Hobby vs. Retail. Card manufacturers needed a way to cater to both purists who were willing to spend more for limited-run cards and to kids and novices who wanted to buy a pack of cards for a buck or two, with less regard for the investment, so card companies began to produce a different level of card for each market. Certified “hobby” shops that managed to survive the eBay invasion would have exclusive access to purchase and sell limited, higher-end, unique product that couldn’t be distributed by large chain retail giants like Target and Walmart. This hobby/retail distribution format is in full effect today, and many consider it to be the primary reason baseball cards have made a resurgence.

    2014: Call It A Comeback

    Sorry LL, cards are back and in grand fashion. If you’ve been out of the game for a while, it would be well worth your time to take a second look. To say they’ve come a long way is a massive understatement. About the only thing they still have in common with the past is their width/height dimensions.

    Various modern day insert cards

    Various modern day insert cards

    Strangely, it’s the depth of the card that makes it immediately possible for one to differentiate  between cards of today and cards of past decades. That’s because manufacturers are stuffing them with certified game-used pieces of anything from jerseys, to bats, to mitts, to batting gloves, and everything in between. If a player’s equipment can be salvaged and certified by a card company, you can bet it will find it’s way into a card. Certified autographs are the norm now and in hobby-distributed releases, might show up in every pack, while in retail varieties, will be limited to one in several packs or boxes…if you’re lucky.

    Some cards literally come with technology now. In 2011, card manufacturer, Panini (formerly, Donruss), introduced the industry’s first video training card. Say what? It gets even crazier. If the player featured in the video happened to also autograph the card, the footage might include the athlete actually signing and inscribing it.

    Today, the biggest barrier in the way of collectors hopping back aboard the card wagon they once rode is price. It’s not uncommon to have to shell out $100 or more for a Hobby box … or even a single pack. Moreover, a pack might contain as little as one card, but there is hope for pricing relief thanks to innovative collectors, and this comes in the form of Web-televised “Group Breaks”.

    Current favorite baseball release: 2014 (front) and 2013 (rear) Topps Museum Baseball. 4 packs per box, 5 cards per pack. Price typically ranges between $175-$200 per box.

    Current favorite baseball release: 2014 (front) and 2013 (rear) Topps Museum Baseball. 4 packs per box, 5 cards per pack. Price typically ranges between $175-$200 per box.

    Group breaks are essentially this: Someone buys a certain volume of packs or boxes and resells them by breaking them up to other collectors in a group, creating a cost-share model in card collecting. For example, a breaker might buy a case of unopened boxes and sell them to a group of collectors, broken down by team. Prior to “breaking the cards”, the breaker will often post a list of all the teams in Major League Baseball on eBay and have bidders bid for the teams they want in the break. When the eBay auctions end, the collector with the highest bid on a given team “wins” that team’s cards and joins the break. Here’s the best part: Serious breakers will live-stream the breaks on various Web-casting sites like Ustream or VaughnLive so the winning bidders can tune in and watch the cards being pulled in real time. At the conclusion of the break, the cards are then shipped out to the owners of each team. The advantage? Collect only the teams you care about. The disadvantage? There’s no guarantee your team will come up in a break, especially when higher-end boxes might contain only a handful of cards or less.

    There are several breakers offering this option on eBay and I’ve participated in live breaks with a lot of them, but I strongly recommend settling in with the creme de la cardboard of group breakers, and that’s Ohio-based, Bomber Breaks. Chris and Kevin have managed to create a full-fledged, highly-entertaining, online, group break powerhouse. From rockin’ music, to a stage set with “guest breakers” (cards from the past that feature oddball player poses), to Will Ferrell-as-Harry Caray impressions, to Darwin’s Fox, rubber spiders and beyond, Chris keeps the breaks flowing and laughs going while Kevin manages the room and break outcomes like a master craps dealer paying out to a full table. And if you’re unable to watch a live break that you purchased a spot in, don’t fret. All breaks are recorded and uploaded for viewing on their YouTube channel the next day, just like this 20 box Spring Training Mixer, assembled to commemorate the beginning of the 2014 baseball season (check the 32:45 and 47:53 marks for some CactusLeaguers shout-outs).

    We had the pleasure of doing some joint promotional work with the Bomber guys while at Spring Training a couple weeks back. If you had the chance to meet us in Arizona, you’re likely well-aware of this! We were the guys plastering packs of cards at stadiums from Scottsdale to Goodyear and everywhere in between. Chris and Kevin were even trusting enough to send their trademark Harry Caray patch down for us to go all Flat Stanley with (see pics below).

    Cards are back in a big, big way. For an inexpensive method back in to a hobby that literally offers you a piece of baseball history, I strongly suggest following the guys from Bomber Breaks and getting in on one their big hit breaks. When you do, say hello to The Fox for me and tell em’ the Jazzman sent ya.

     

    The Bomber Breaks famed Harry Caray "big hit" patch getting dirty at Goodyear Ballpark

    The Bomber Breaks famed Harry Caray “big hit” patch getting dirty at Goodyear Ballpark

    Big Hits meet Big Heights. Top of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, AZ

    Big Hits meet Big Heights. Top of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, AZ

    Cincinnati Reds legend, George Foster, accepting his new Bomber lid at Goodyear Ballpark

    Cincinnati Reds legend, George Foster, accepting his new Bomber lid at Goodyear Ballpark

    Chasing the Tribe from Ohio to Arizona

    Chasing the Tribe from Ohio to Arizona

    Royals fan accepting the "25-year-old Gum Challenge" from a pack of 1989 Bowman Baseball at Surprise Stadium

    Royals fan accepting the “25-year-old Gum Challenge” from a pack of 1989 Bowman Baseball at Surprise Stadium

    Creepin' in on the Reds at sunset at Goodyear Ballpark

    Creepin’ in on the Reds at sunset at Goodyear Ballpark

    Big breaks lead to big opportunities. In the dugout with the Texas Rangers.

    Big breaks lead to big opportunities. In the dugout with the Texas Rangers.

    The ultimate game-used hit!

    The ultimate game-used hit!

    National Anthem with the Texas Rangers

    National Anthem with the Texas Rangers

    Rockin' the Bomber Sports Card lid while raking the paths with the grounds crew at Goodyear Ballpark

    Rockin’ the Bomber Sports Card lid while raking the paths with the grounds crew at Goodyear Ballpark

    C is for Card Collecting, that's good enough for me. The Cleveland C at Goodyear Ballpark.

    C is for Card Collecting, that’s good enough for me. The Cleveland C at Goodyear Ballpark.

    The calm before the Bomb. Seven games in five days. Stadiums throughout Spring Training were blitzed with cards courtesy of Bomber Sports Cards & Collectibles.

    The calm before the Bomb. Seven games in five days. Stadiums throughout Spring Training were blitzed with cards courtesy of Bomber Sports Cards & Collectibles.

     

  • Celebrate Our Relaunch: Jarrod Parker Topps Certified Autograph Giveaway!

    Help us celebrate the relaunch of CactusLeaguers.com! In just over three weeks, the Pack will be back in Arizona for our third consecutive year of Spring Training coverage. To prepare, we’re pandering to A’s fans by giving away this SWEET Topps Museum certified autograph of Oakland A’s ace hurler, Jarrod Parker!

    rsz_2jarrod_parker_auto

    To be eligible, you must “Like” the Cactus Leaguers Facebook page, “Follow” CactusLeaguers on Twitter, and “retweet” our (hashtag) “#JarrodParkerAuto” tweet posted on 2/19/14. Contestants meeting these three requirements will have their names loaded into Random.org and one will be selected at random as the winner on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 9:00PM MST. Winner will be notified via private Facebook message. To be eligible, all three conditions must be met and still be active statuses on Facebook and Twitter at the time of drawing. Card Details: 2013 Topps Museum Collection AA-JPA, serial #131/399

     

  • Welcome to the New CactusLeaguers.com !

    Hello Humans. Can you smell that? The scent of hope, the scent of freshly mowed grass, the scent of ballpark dogs? The scent of baseball?

    Of course you can’t. Scratch-n-Sniff Websites haven’t been invented…yet (damn you Google for indexing this and stealing our idea).

    But Spring Training is all about new beginnings, so to help us get into the spirit and pass the time until we head for the desert, we’ve re-launched CactusLeaguers.com! Take a look around and let us know what you think or if you have suggestions for how we can add even more industrial strength goodness to this digital powerhouse.

    Each member of the Media Wolfpack is busy getting ready – and each in his own special way: Patrick, planning interviews and arranging credentials. Manny, tuning up the social media accounts and continuing his aggressive insistence that there really is a reason four guys should be on Pinterest. Rawlee, arranging travel and making sure the requisite amount of Gold Bond accompanies us on the trip. And me, well, I’m handling the leftovers. What am I forgetting? KEVIN!

    So much more to come. 32 days and counting…

    Hugs,

    The Pack