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I was watching KCAL’s miserable — kept dropping in and out of HD — feed this weekend, and I saw this come up:


On the lower half of the screen is the same “searching for signal” pop-up that shows up on the DirecTV in our living room. So is MLB.TV using DirecTV’s video feeds, streaming sattelite TV online?

On that note, DirecTV’s insane when it comes to pricing their incarnation of MLB Extra Innings. As noted by the Biz of Baseball, MLB-EI was $179 prior to the season, and is now $191 (four payments of $47.75), and $191 afterwards. When I called two weeks ago, intending to purchase the package at mid-season, DirecTV did NOT offer a pro-rated price for the remainder of the season. So even with half of the season already in the books, DirecTV still wants the full-season price. That made the decision to subscribe to MLB.TV pretty easy at that point.

MLB.TV is fine, and offers HD-quality (don’t know the exact resolution) video. It also helps that the monitor is a 20-inch widescreen, so the picture is pretty comparable to the 27-inch SD set in the living room.


“It was one of the best moments in my career. I’m just glad it happened in LA.”

photo credit: Yahoo! Sports

photo credit: Yahoo! Sports

I was somewhat interested in UD’s baseball Icons release. I saw a lot to like — small (100) base set, the option to totally disregard the numbered, short-printed rookie set, and design that hearkened back to 2005-era UD designs. There’s also plenty to dislike, such as the ridiculous hobby price point ($80-ish; 10 packs/6 cards per pack) and ridiculous lettermen checklists (Jeremy Piven? Seriously?).

After seeing a blaster review over at Crackin’ Wax, I get the feeling that UD is beyond mailing 2009 in. There’s absolutely nothing 2009-Upper-Deck-MLB-Icons-box redeeming about any 2009 UD release to date. Boring design — turns out the 2005-era references are pretty mild — and more of the seemingly ubiquitous printing defects guarantees Icons is DOA before it reaches wide distribution.

Furthermore, what’s up with the box configurations? Hobby ($80-90) and retail ($20) both have 10 pack/six cards per pack configurations? While I can appreciate making the retail configuration more attractive, doesn’t this pretty much eliminate the need to buy a hobby box — unless of course you absolutely NEED that Jeremy Piven letterman?

UD had a great mid-summer product in 2008’s Baseball Heroes. They didn’t bother this year. While I haven’t seen any Icons in person, this looks like a complete dud of a mid-summer product. And while I imagine they’re putting most of their eggs in the Goodwin Champions basket, I have to wonder — are they going to eliminate the hobby box incentive there too? Comparing it to last year’s Masterpices, the retail and hobby configurations were different enough. But aside from the ridiculously-seeded short prints, there wasn’t any incentive to waste money on a hobby box when a blaster would result in far more productive experience for set-builders.

I don’t mean to go off on a Goodwin tangent — but for as much as I’m looking forward to that release, the effort UD put into Icons concerns me. I get the feeling that UD has a chance to finally make a statement in 2009, and they could very well fail again. We’ll see in September, but given their track record so far this year, is anyone expecting anything different from Upper Deck?

Topps has been absolutely killing it, so to speak, with their releases this year. And with Allen & Ginter overshadowing a mediocre Icons, will the much-ballyhooed Goodwin Champions pull enough attention away from Chrome and Ticket to Stardom?

Found these bad boys at the local Toys R Us


It’s no Manny bobblehead, but they’ll do until I can finagle my way into getting the real thing!

8 cards per pack/24 packs per box

By the box:

Box 1:
Short Prints: 12
National Pride: 24
Highlight Sketches: 4
Ginter Code parallels: 2
Relics: 3
Minis: 12
Allen & Ginter back minis: 5
Black-bordered minis: 3
National Heroes: 2
World’s Greatest Hoaxes: 2

Box 2:
Short Prints: 11
National Pride: 24
Highlight Sketches: 3
Ginter Code parallels: 2
Relics: 4
Minis: 11
Allen & Ginter back minis: 5
Black-bordered minis: 3
National Heroes: 2
World’s Greatest Hoaxes: 2
Non-printed number, hand-numbered minis: 1

Box 3:
Short Prints: 13
National Pride: 24
Highlight Sketches: 4
Ginter Code parallels: 2
Relics: 3
Minis: 13
Allen & Ginter back minis: 4
Black-bordered minis: 2
National Heroes: 2
World’s Greatest Hoaxes: 2
Bazooka back, hand-numbered minis: 1

Base set (1-300) completion: 233 of 300 (78%)
Short-print set (301-350) completion: 21 of 50 (42%)





That is some remarkably bad collation. I still can’t quite comprehend how three hobby boxes, all of which yielding 120+ base cards each, somehow failed to produce an entire base set of 300. With last year’s product, I was only two base cards short of a full set with only two hobby boxes. To make matters worse, look at the SP collation. My three boxes yielded 36 short prints. A whopping 15 of them were doubles. FIFTEEN short print doubles. So instead of being nearly 2/3 of the way complete with the SPs, I’m only halfway through. Fortunately, trading the extras will make easy work of completing the remainder.

But the trouble lies in how much extra work it’ll take to complete the set this year. Bad collation has guaranteed a much larger number of trades to complete the 09 set. With the 08 set, I was able to finish shortly after acquiring my boxes. This year, much more effort will go into it. Is this intentional on the part of Topps? Make collation purposefully bad, thus forcing consumers to buy more product? I don’t know, but I sure wouldn’t be surprised either.

As for the positives, well, it’s Allen & Ginter, so we all know why everyone fawns over this product. A nice touch this year was the elimination of the thick decoy cards that had been used as Dick Perez sketches in the past and the USA set last year. Should make for easier storage in boxes and binders. I also like the selection of mini subsets this year. The National Heroes, I feel, is a much more thoughtful subset than the National Pride subset. Likewise with the World’s Greatest Hoaxes. As a self-professed history buff, I absolutely love inserts such as these.

It was unfortunate, however, that bad collation not only ruined the set-building progress, but also failed to yield any of the Future Inventions or Extinct Animals minis.

Equally frustrating are the rising prices for hobby boxes. I assume they are, anyway. My usual source, starting with Heritage, increased his selling prices well above previous norms — Heritage was $80 a box, up from $65 a year before, and now Ginter was $92 a box, up from $85 a year before. I assume this means Topps is increasing their wholesale prices, which again, squeezes the consumer further.

My source also received his stock late, meaning I could’ve taken advantage of Blowout Cards’ lower online prices and had boxes delivered earlier. As much as I prefer to support local business, if local business can’t beat online business both in price and in and timeliness, what choice do I have but to go online?

I can’t complain about the cards themselves. It’s A & G, so we all know what we’re getting. And as always, Topps stays faithful to the original. No one does retro better than Topps, and I say this even as I eagerly await Upper Deck’s Goodwin Champions.

21 packs per box:
17 regular packs/7 cards per pack
4 jumbo packs/20 cards per pack

Base set completion: 138 of 178 (78%)
Short print set completion:10 of 22 (45%)
Base doubles: 45





This seemed like a reasonable enough deal — Charm City does these hobby boxes for $55. With that many cards coming in a hobby box, it seemed pretty feasible that a single box would yield the entire set. Well, it came close. A shame, since better collation would’ve easily taken care of the base set. Maybe not the SPs, but there were clearly enough doubles (45 altogether) to come a lot closer to finishing the remaining 40 I need now.

As far as all the shiny baubles, it comes with the requisite game-used cards. The Schilling card is nice enough, although I have a lot of trouble referring to a square-inch or so-sized swatch of jersey as a patch. I don’t know, but when I say “patch,” I’m thinking something a little bigger than what you normally get. It would’ve been nice had I owned these two game-used cards in, say, I don’t know, 2004. But hey, I’m sure there’re still plenty of Giambi and Schilling fans out there.

I wasn’t around in 2004 to know whether this was intended as a retro set to compete with Heritage, but it clearly pays homage to 1984 Fleer. I also can’t recall if 1984 was a particularly important one for Fleer, or why, if they did, want to commemorate the occasion 20 years later.

mattinglyWhile I’m clearly a sucker for the obvious retro-themed sets (i.e. Heritage, Masterpieces, etc.), it does seem a little odd to look to the overproduction era for inspiration. Then again, I dove in and went after both 08 Timeline and 07 SP Rookie Edition, so perhaps even the 80s/90s era has untapped potential.

I can’t imagine, however, that time will ever produce a yearning for 2039 Topps Heritage, which would bring back the ever-popular 1990 design out from the dustbin.

Overproduction era or not, mid-80s Fleer does have that nice, clean look that translates well to a modern card, as evidenced by 2004 Platinum. And just like the old days, card numbers are randomly assigned — that is, the set isn’t ordered alphabetically by teams, like any modern Upper Deck set. Different teams are scattered about the checklist as they have been in the past — at least for Upper Deck/Fleer, anyway.

plat4Speaking of hearkening back to the past, I found the “Unsung Heroes” subset particularly interesting in that it reminded me so much, visually, of all of those late-80s drugstore issues. I remember those cards well — every time we’d drop by a Sav-On Drug or Woolworths, I’d beg forever and ever for a pack. Mom and dad rarely relented, but I did manage to save at least two sets — 1988 Topps Woolworth and 1988 Topps Kmart.

I remember loving those cards so much — so glossy! They had to be “worth more” sabothan those cheap cardboard 50-cents-a-pack regular issues. Two decades later, I came to the sad realization that they weren’t worth much in dollars, but they were certainly worth the childhood nostalgia. Their lack of value, however, hasn’t stopped some folks from locking them up in PSA holders,  however.

Anyway, enough nostalgia. Although there were some obvious collation issues, this was not a bad box to break overall. It’s not a massively oversized set, and the short prints aren’t a hideous task to compile either. A single box could conceivably knock out an entire base set, and that’s always added value. As far as completing the set, I don’t know that there’re too many doubles of these cards floating around on the Bench, but we’ll see.

San Bernadino 66ers mascot Bernie, at yesterday’s game:

(pic credit: The Trolley Dodger)

(pic credit: The Trolley Dodger)

This is the Padres’ Fourth of July (a.k.a. Manny’s back, game #2) stadium giveaway: padres

I’m fairly confident that no Dodger promotion, past or present, has mentioned any other team, and especially not the Padres.

But it’s nice to know they’re still thinking of us, even when they’re sitting 15 games back behind in the standings. Besides, I think Boston Celtics and San Francisco Giants fans already have the “BEAT L.A.!” thing cornered.

Want a Bluetooth headset? Don’t bother buying one from Samsung. Well, just hope it doesn’t ever break on you and you go for the mendacious act of taking them up on warranty service! samsung-logo

On 6/3/09, I received authorization to return a defective WEP170 Bluetooth headset for warranty service. The headset was then sent back to me, without service. The reason given was that the proof-of purchase I supplied didn’t have the seller’s name and address printed on it. The invoice I provided actually did have that information, but for whatever reason, it was still returned to me.

I contacted customer service again on 6/19/09 to attempt to resolve the issue. The initial CSR I spoke to, after an hour or so of back-and-forth and being placed on hold numerous times, assured me that the reasons given were valid, in spite of me holding an invoice with the requested information. After getting nowhere with the initial CSR, I asked to be transferred to a supervisor. I did, and was disconnected after she placed me on hold.

wep170I called in again, and immediately asked to be transferred to a supervisor. She looked into my file, and found that the reasons given were as I mentioned earlier. I offered to send her a copy of the invoice, with the information requested, and she accepted. She then apologized for the confusion, gave me a new repair ticket number, and informed me a new headset would be on its way shortly.

On 6/22/09, I checked the UPS tracking number provided to me, and I discovered the new headset was apparently heading to Lousiana. I’m in Oregon. So on 6/23/09, I again contacted customer service to inform them of the issue. The CSR I spoke with, after being placed on hold for about 10 minutes or so, informed me that I had to contact UPS myself to correct the error. I refused, as this is clearly an error on the shipper’s part. I mean, I’m no geography expert, but I’m pretty sure Louisiana isn’t anywhere near Oregon.

I then asked again to be transferred to a supervisor. After being placed on hold again, she informed me that an investigation would be taking place as to why the package was scheduled for delivery in Louisiana. I can make the investigation pretty simple — UPS is delivering it there because it’s clear it was addressed there. Now, as to WHY it was addressed there, I don’t know. That supervisor then told me that I would find out in 24-48 hours exactly what happened.

I don’t really expect this situation to be resolved expeditiously (or even resolved at all) at this point. All I want is a functional headset, and now that we’re going on three weeks and a whole lot of time wasted on the phone, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get that — that is, unless I give up and just buy a new one.

However, I will say this. Although there are surely thousands upon thousands of other potential customers out there, Samsung has done a wonderful job of losing me. I have, in the past, been quite satisfied with Samsung products. But I know now that should these products ever go bad, I can pretty much assume I’ll receive no help from Samsung customer service. I doubt that I’ll ever purchase anything else from Samsung, and I’ll make sure no one I know does either. Sure, a small drop in the bucket, but I’d rather save others from the frustration of dealing with Samsung’s non-existent customer service.

Jeff Kent, along with a number of other Hall of Famers and retired MLB stars during the Hall of Fame Classic this weekend. Kent of course ended his career with the Dodgers, but played six seasons with the Giants.

I would imagine this pretty much confirms which hat he’s going to be depicted wearing at Cooperstown.

As an aside, I’m glad Jeff finally found a younger teammate he’s happy to play alongside.