25 December 2010

Merry Christmas and the Re-Opening of Balk Four

Before we get into anything else:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the sandy beaches of Afghanistan, where the Balk Four headquarters are currently operating out of. I hope Santa was very generous this year and brought you everything you wanted (and maybe even a little more ;) ).

It's been a few months since I had a post up over here (erm, 4 months) but I have decided to re-open the doors to Balk Four. I hope to post more often, entertain more and eventually get back into the trading game.

I was feeling passionless about collecting (and writing) for awhile there, but have been bitten by the bug recently. I am participating in the FCB Secret Santa and have already received one SS package (which I will post pictures of in the next week) and I am anticipating one more. I have also received $100 in paypal gifts today, so I plan on going on a mini spending spree on eBay over the next few days (if I can make it out of today with any funds left) and plan on posting what I win after I receive them in.

I hope no one missed me too much and I look forward to getting back into reading everyone's blogs again.

25 August 2010

Northern Exposure: An NFC & AFC North Preview

Before I began to write this post, the Vikings experienced season altering news: Sidney Rice is having surgery and will be out for at least the first half of the season. With Percy Harvin having migraine problems, Brett Favre's arsenal has gotten inexperienced very quickly. This affects the NFC North in many ways.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers - 1st in division - 13-3
Sleeper - Jermichael Finley, TE - Labeling Finley as a sleeper may seem ridiculous, but before the Packers last preseason game, no one was touting Finley as the top 5 TE that he seems to be after that performance (I know, I know, it's preseason, but still). Finley is a huge red zone target for the team and was the top TE in all of fantasy land in the final 5 weeks last season (that means: in the fantasy playoffs). What's so awesome about Finley? You can generally get him as the 7th or 8th TE drafted (Gates, Witten, Gonzalez, Davis, Daniels, Celek generally get drafted before Finley).

Bust - I can't find a single bust on the Packers offense. All 5 of the players at the tops of the offensive depth charts (QB, RB, TE, WR1 & WR2) are draftable and will produce.

Rookie to watch - None - Tough for a rookie to crack an offensive rotation that is as good at the top and as stable as the Packers' is.

You already know - Aaron Rodgers, QB - Really, any of 4 names could be here, but I chose the best of the bunch. Rodgers is primed to be one of the 2 best fantasy QB's this season and is getting drafted like one. With Finley poised for a breakout, Grant pounding the rock and Jennings and Driver hauling in the catches, Rodgers has plenty options to air it out.

Chicago Bears - 2nd in division - 9-7
Sleeper - Matt Forte, RB - After suffering through a sophomore slump, Forte is poised to bounce back and put up numbers similar to his rookie season. Though the Bears added Chester Taylor as running back depth, Forte is their #1 RB and will be given plenty of opportunities to shine. With Jay Cutler airing the ball out this season, it will open up the offense and give Forte plenty of room to run.

Bust - Devin Hester, WR - As long as Hester is listed as a #1 or #2 WR, Hester will be considered a bust. Never a receiving threat, Hester is a pure return man, with exciting speed and moves, but terrible hands. IF you are drafting a Bears WR, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu are the ones to get.

Rookie to watch - Juaquin Iglesias, WR - This is a reach, but if he is given the chance, he will excel in an offense that will throw the ball more than it is used.

You already know - Jay Cutler, QB - With Mike Martz at the helm of the offense, Cutler is going to throw, throw, throw this season. That means more yards, more touchdowns and, well, more interceptions. Though he only had 12 last season, he could near the 20 interception mark this season, with Martz propensity to air it out on offense. Definitely a top 10 QB, but you never know what Cutler will do from week to week.

Minnesota Vikings - 3rd in division - 8-8
Sleeper - Bernard Berrian, WR - With Sidney Rice out and Percy Harvin suffering from migraines, Berrian becomes the guaranteed #1 WR (barring injury) for Brett Favre to throw to. This means he should be looking at a 1,000 yard season and close to double digit touchdowns so long as, you know, he can catch the damn ball.

Bust - Brett Favre, QB - A man who was so high just two days ago can drop so low once he loses his best WR from last season and his 2nd best WR is still suffering from the migraines he had the previous season. With the loss at WR, the Vikings should give the ball to Adrian Peterson a lot more, meaning Favre will have less chances to air the ball out.

Rookie to watch - Toby Gerhart, RB - Not many rookies on the offensive side of the ball but, should anything happen to Peterson, Gerhart becomes the man in Minnesota. With a great offensive line to run behind, Gerhart should score a handful of touchdowns just by relieving Peterson a few times a game.

You already know - Adrian Peterson, RB - Top 2 RB, great hands, scores tons of touchdowns, just a player you don't need to explain much. If he has solved his fumblitis, he will have a bigger season than last.

Detroit Lions - 4th in division - 5-11
Sleeper - Nate Burleson, WR - You know, I thought about putting Brandon Pettigrew in this spot, but then I got to thinking. With all the defenses keying in on Calvin Johnson, Burleson is going to be put in a situation to succeed. Getting left  one on one with smaller CB's, Burleson will be able to shine and put up solid numbers and make a push to be a viable #2 WR by the midway point of the season.

Bust - Matthew Stafford, QB - Even if he does take a step forward this season, he still won't put up the numbers worthy of being a starting fantasy QB. He does make for a drool worthy keeper league QB, but he won't truly shine until next season. Once he has a full season at the helm, with Jahvid Best in the backfield and develops a stronger bond with the offense, he should see himself landing as a top 10 QB in 2011.

Rookie to watch - Jahvid Best, RB - Seemingly everyone's front running rookie of the year, Best has all the skills necessary to excel at the NFL level. Joining a young team, who's eyes are set on the future, Best will be under no pressure to be a top RB in the league right away, as the passing game should be the primary focus of the team. A solid flex play to start the season, I see Best ending the season as a #2 RB starter and a 2nd rd pick for 2011.

You already know - Calvin Johnson, WR - Johnson, or Megatron as he's known, is a legitimate top 5 WR who's star should shine much brighter this year. With the Lions having some semblance of a ground game this season and Burleson being probably the best WR mate he has had since he has been on the team, Johnson's numbers can only go up this season. He may fight for the top spot this season, meaning his draft spot makes him somewhat of a steal.

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens - 1st in division - 11-5
Sleeper - Is there such a thing as a sleeper in an offense as hyped as the Ravens offense currently is?

Bust - Todd Heap, TE - Oh Todd, where did we go wrong? We trusted you to become Flacco's safety valve, his blankie, yet you disappointed us. We just wanted top ten status from you. It's been 4 years since you were a reliable target. I'd say you had one more good season left in you, but the Ravens have too many options to rely on you anymore.

Rookie to watch - Team depth will prevent a rookie from stepping into any kind of a fantasy friendly situation.

You already know - Anquan Boldin, WR - You know this guy. Perennial #2 to Larry Fitzgerald, absolute beast on the field. Scoffs at recovery time. Enjoys getting hit as much as he enjoys hitting others. Not a burner, by any means, but he still gets yards and touchdowns and is a viable #1 WR.

Pittsburgh Steelers - 2nd in division - 10-6
Sleeper - Ben Roethlisberger, QB - I know he is going to miss 5 fantasy weeks (including the bye), but even without Santonio Holmes, he comes back and will be a top 10 fantasy quarterback the rest of the season. And he can be had in the final third of he draft (or $2 in an auction). That's the kind of value you pine for in fantasy sports. Just make sure your starter has a bye week after week 5 and start Ben the rest of the season.

Bust - Byron Leftwich, QB - Steelers fans will no how valuable Ben is to them once Leftwich is done with their offense on his first drive. Inaccurate arm, poor decisions and losing his wheels, Leftwich plays like the quarterback he used to be, but produces like the quarterback he is. The Steelers offense won't be the same until week 6.

Rookie to watch - Not a rookie to be found looking up and down the Steelers depth chart. Well, at least not a rookie worth watching.

You already know - Hines Ward, WR - Mr. Dependable, will get his numbers regardless who's behind center. Almost a guarantee for 1,000 yards a season, the dirtiest WR in football continues to be a threat, age notwithstanding.

Cincinnati Bengals - 3rd in division - 8-8
Sleeper - Terrell Owens, WR - Probably the first time Owens has ever been considered a sleeper, but he is. People will look at what he did in Buffalo and think he is done, but he will be living life as the 3rd option on the offense and won't have to be the focal point. with Ochocinco getting the attention from the best DB's on the field, Owens will be able to prowl the field, snatching up everything thrown his way. A solid #3 WR or first WR off the bench.

Bust - Cedric Benson, RB - I just don't think his body holds up through another full season of punishment. Not to mention Bernard Scott is lurking and will surely still some carries this season, to keep Benson healthy and able to survive the entire season. Plus, the addition of Antonio Bryant, Terrell Owens and drafting of Jordan Shipley points to the Bengals airing it out a lot more this season.

Rookie to watch - Jordan Shipley, WR - Slowly making his way up the depth chart, Shipley is the ideal slot receiver for the Bengals. Sure handed, not afraid to go over the middle and a fantastic 3rd down receiver, Shipley should see plenty of time on the field.

You already know - Carson Palmer, QB - With more weapons than he has ever had, Palmer should have his best season this season. Two bonafide star WR's (even if they are both a little old), a solid slot receiver, a great running game and an ever improved offensive line makes Palmer a very underrated QB who could be a top 10 guy by the end of the season.

Cleveland Browns - 4th in division - 4-12
Sleeper - Mohamed Massaquoi, WR - The best hands on the team and the second most reliable weapon, Massaquoi will benefit from having Jake Delhomme behind center. The definite #1 WR from the team, he should see plenty of looks and have every chance possible to succeed.

Bust - Jerome Harrison, RB - I hate to put Harrison here, but all signs point to Montario Hardesty to be healthy for the season opened, making it tough for Harrison to get the guaranteed #1 RB load. HE was a fantastic producer down the stretch last season, but I just cannot see him reproducing those same numbers for an entire season.

Rookie to watch - Montario Hardesty, RB - All healed up and looking to make his first appearance in a Browns jersey in their upcoming pre-season game, Hardesty is a back in the bruiser mold. A smash mouth runner, he is a larger back than Harrison and should a boon to the offense. If the Browns offense has any success through the air, Hardesty should be able to make a fight for the OROY.

You already know - Jake Delhomme, QB - Not much to say, except he left an ideal situation in Carolina for a less than ideal situation in Cleveland. His numbers will see a decrease across the board with the lack of talent at the receiver spot and one can only hope that his interception numbers come down as well.

With an end to the North divisions, you can look forward to the South divisions tomorrow. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email or leave a comment.

24 August 2010

West Side Story: An AFC & NFC West Preview

To kick start the blog in it's new direction, I plan on previewing all 4 divisions in both conferences over the next four days. I've got a list of sleepers, busts, rookies to watch for and, well, guys you already know about to explore.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers - 1st in Division - 10-6 (2010 Expected finish)
Sleeper - Alex Smith, QB - With a top flight TE in Vernon Davis and a full season of Michael Crabtree, Smith can only improve on his numbers from last season. Add to that a versatile weapon in Brian Westbrook and Smith has the chance to jump into the top 12 fantasy QB's, interceptions willing. This may be Frank Gore's team, but they will want to keep him healthy for the entire season if they want to make a spirited run for the division crown and a playoff push.

Bust -Ted Ginn, Jr., WR - Unless your league counts kick return and punt return yardage, Ginn is not worth a draft pick. Known for his propensity to drop passes in Miami, I see no reason this changes as the slot receiver in San Fransisco. Stay. Away.

Rookie to watch - Nate Davis, QB - Big, talented QB, with a booming arm. If Smith falters, do not be surprised to see Davis get a chance to show the brass what he can do with the first team offense. I can see him leap frogging perennial project David Carr and being the #2 QB a few weeks into the season.

You already know - Frank Gore, RB - First round pick, regardless of settings. When healthy, a top 5 back. Even in PPR, he tends to be useful (though he does drop a bit, at least behind Andre Johnson). Will get 1,200+ yards and 10+ touchdowns. No RB committee to worry about (Brian Westbrook should not scare you away).

Arizona Cardinals - 2nd in Division - 8-8
Sleeper - Early Doucet, WR - What, you expected Matt Leinart here? Though Doucet is primed to be the #3 WR, he should get plenty of short looks while Leinart builds his confidence to throw the ball down field. Being the slot receiver will make it easy for Doucet to be a solid backup WR in PPR leagues and a WR to keep an eye on in deeper, non-PPR leagues.

Bust - Matt Leinart, QB - Even with one of the 5 best WR's to throw to, I don't see Leinart proving himself to be anything else other than just an average NFL quarterback. He will be in charge of the offense for longer than I would leave him there, but could be replaced by Derek Anderson before the end of the season (who, in my eyes, is the more talented QB anyways).

Rookie to watch - Um, would it upset all the Cardinals fans out there if I said no one? The primary offensive parts are filled with veterans and I see no chance of a rookie making a splash on this team.

You already know - Larry Fitzgeral, WR - Top 5 WR, but may see his numbers drop so long as Leinart is behind center. Would probably shine a lot more with Anderson throwing him the ball, but you can expect another 90 catches, 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns, regardless.

Seattle Seahawks - 3rd in division - 6-10
Sleeper - Justin Forsett, RB - Based on where he is being drafted, Forsett qualifies as a sleeper to me. Extremely more valuable in a PPR league, Forsett caught 41 passes last season in a lot more limited duty then he will have this season. Leon Washington, Julius Jones and crew should not hold Forsett back from a 1,000 yard season.

Bust - Deion Branch, WR - Not that you were drafting him (unless you start 4 WR or are in a ridiculously deep league), but Branch could lose his starting job to rookie Golden Tate or former USC standout Mike Williams. He's never been a fantasy factor in Seattle and he's never had 1,000 yards or more than 78 receptions in a season. Stay far away from Deion.

Rookie to watch - Golden Tate, WR - An obvious no brainer for this team, Tate should be the #2 WR, opposite TJ Houshmanzadeh, sooner rather than later. A solid option as a #3 fantasy WR, Tate could develop into a reliable #2 guy by the end of the season.

You already know - TJ Houshmanzadeh, WR - Ironic that their are 3 WR listed for the 'Hawks, but Housh is as reliable as it gets in Seattle. With what should be a better offense, Housh should see 1,000 yards again this season and may even spike his TD totals back into the 6-8 range, making him a viable #2 in most formats.

St. Louis Rams - 4th in division - 4-12
Sleeper - Laurent Robinson, WR - Apparently Robinson is everyone's sleeper and for good reason. He is the most talented WR on the team and all but guaranteed to be the #1 WR come week 1. Regardless if Bradford or Feeley is throwing the ball, Robinson should see numbers good enough to draft him as your first WR off the bench.

Bust - Sam Bradford, QB - Yes, he was easily the best available QB in the draft, but he will be behind one of the worst offensive lines in all of football. With Feeley currently on the mend with multiple injuries, Bradford could be thrown into the fire week 1. Not worth draft this season, but definitely a QB to keep an eye on in the future.

Rookie to watch - Mardy Gilyard, WR - To say that the Rams have a poor offense is like saying the Rams had an ok season last year: it's quite an understatement. Knowing that, there will be blowouts in their future, which means the Rams will throw the ball, a lot. And if Gilyard happens to grab the slot receiver role for this team, he will have an opportunity to showcase his skills to be the #2 WR next season.

You already know - Steven Jackson, RB - Top 5 RB, PPR monster. On the worst team he's ever played for, has his second most rush attempts and rushing yards. Should see improved TD numbers if the passing game improves even just a little.

AFC West

San Diego Chargers - 1st in division - 11-5
Sleeper - Legedu Naanee, WR - With Vincent Jackson clearly out of the picture and everyone else in the world hyping Malcolm Floyd, Naanee can rest on his laurels knowing few people are expecting him to produce. What with Antonio Gates being option #1, a new rookie RB in town and Floyd taking over #1 duties, Naanee might as well be an afterthought. An afterthought to all but the most attentive fantasy players, that is. While defenses cue in on Gates and Floyd, he should find himself open more often than not and finding himself a clean 1,000 yards is not out of the question.

Bust - Philip Rivers, QB - Based on what you have to pay for Rivers' services, he will not live up to those lofty expectations. Without his #1 WR and missing his mammoth LT, Rivers' numbers should definitely see a downward spike. Not to mention the impact Mathews has on the running game may limit the numbers of passes Rivers throws, he will not be a top 6 fantasy quarterback this season.

Rookie to watch - Ryan Mathews, RB - The only rookie running back set in a situation where he should excel, Mathews is going to cost you a high pick or plenty of money to land on your team. With San Diego's ability to protect the RB and make any option look great in the back field, Mathews could be a top 15 RB this season. 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns are not out of the question, Darren Sproles involved or not.

You already know - Antonio Gates, TE - Antontio Gates and elite fantasy TE pretty much go hand in hand. Without Jackson in tow, Gates stands to gain more receptions and more fantasy points this season, as the only sure thing on the Chargers offense. 90 receptions and double digit TD's are not out of the question as Gates should finish the season as the #1 TE in all of fantasy football.

Kansas City Chiefs - 2nd in division - 9-7
Sleeper - Matt Cassel, QB - Being drafted primarily as a back up QB in all but the deepest of formats, Cassel should finally get a chance to air it out this season. With Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones taking the pressure off of him on the ground, Cassel to Bowe should become fantasy gold. Add in Chris Chambers and the fascinating Dexter McCluster to Cassel's arsenal and he has a chance to sneak into the top 10-12 fantasy quarterback territory.

Bust - Any TE - Once Tony Gonzalez left KC, the TE spot on the KC roster has been a black hole of non-fantasy entities. The 2010 season is no different. Leonard Pope is nothing more than an extra lineman and Tony Moeaki cannot stay healthy. Avoid at all costs.

Rookie to watch - Dexter McCluster, WR/RB - The swiss army knife that is this versatile rookie should help the Chiefs offense tremendously. As the slot WR, change of pace back or even being in the backfield in the wild cat formation, McCluster has the opportunity to shine in a variety of ways. The team wants to get McCluster involved in the offense as often as possible to watch his star value climb and shine.

You already know - Dwayne Bowe, WR - I could have put Jamaal Charles or Thomas Jones here, but with the uncertainty surrounding the two as to how much they will share the rock and who is the #1 back, I went with the consistently disappointing Bowe. In what will be his 4th season in the league, Bowe has had a drastic attitude change and physical change. Though he is listed as the #2 WR, look for Bowe to bounce back from a disappointing season and produce another 80 reception, 1,000 yard season as a viable #2 fantasy WR.

Denver Broncos - 3rd in division - 7-9
Sleeper - Brandon Lloyd, WR - As the most accomplished WR on the team, Lloyd should be able to sidestep Jabar Gaffney and become the #2 WR for the team. Eddie Royal has done little to prove he will be a solid #1, meaning there will be plenty to go around for the other WR on the team.

Bust - Knowshon Moreno, RB - Starting or backing up Correll Buckhalter, Moreno will not have the opportunity to shine in this offense. With a passing game that scares no one, teams will be able to put more men in the box, meaning less chance of Moreno breaking through for any big runs. He is being drafted too high for what little guarantees he can provide.

Rookie to watch - Demaryius Thomas, WR - With a lack of talent at WR, the Broncos were smart to grab this tall, good handed WR at the tail end of the first round. He provides youth to an ever aging position on the team and should be fighting for receptions with the rest of the team. Don't be surprised if he ends up as the #2 guy by the end of the season, if not because he is outproducing the other WR, but because they want to see what the future of their offense looks like.

You already know - Kyle Orton, QB - In no way is this an endorsement of any kind, but you know you will get 3,500+ yards and 20+ touchdowns out of the guy, to go along with his double digit interception totals. Not an elite QB, by any means, but a reliable bye week back up and a possible match up play against teams with weaker secondaries.

Oakland Raiders - 4th in division - 4-12
Sleeper - Michael Bush, RB - Darren McFadden was supposed to be the present and the future of the position, but poor health and lack of production has all but pushed him aside for the much more talented Bush. A bruising RB, Bush should stand out more this season with a better QB behind center, in Jason Campbell. He has poor hands, but averages more than 4 yards per carry, even in a poor offense. If Campbell can take some pressure off of the running game, Bush could outperform everyone's expectations.

Bust - Darrious Heyward-Bey, WR - Lazy. Overpaid. Overrated. Take your pick of negative connotations, Heyward-Bey will most likely live up to them. A reach when he was drafted, at no time does it look like he will live up to his top 10 pick billing. Currently taking days off from practice for "fatigue", Heyward-Bey should only get drafted in leagues where you are rewarded for crappy play.

Rookie to watch - None - No rookies have a chance to shine for this team. Only one rookie would really be involved in the offense from a fantasy perspective, but he is currently the #5 WR.

You already know - Jason Campbell, QB - A huge upgrade over the departed JaMarcus Russell, Campbell will instantly upgrade the passing offense. A career 61% passer, Campbell should still be able to attain 3,000 yards and 20 paTD's with the Raiders and will help open up the running game for Bush and DMC.

Well, that's a wrap on the West divisions in the NFL. Feel free to leave comments, questions and complaints in the comments section and look forward to the North division tomorrow.

20 August 2010

A New Life for the Blog takes it in a New Direction

So, life has been hectic lately. Well, not lately lately, but like, three weeks ago lately. As of the nearer lately, life has been mellow and slow.

How does that explain my lack of posts? Easy: lack of motivation, lack of desire and, for about a week plus, lack of internet. Not to mention, I am not all warm and gooey over baseball cards right now (but I am branching out into basketball now too).

So what is this new life and new direction mean and going to be? Instead of talking about baseball cards and baseball about oh, I don't know, 90% of the time, I am going to focus 100% of my attention on the 3 major sports and the fantasy games we play with them.

I thought I would be falling away from fantasy sports while deployed, but I have found myself being pulled CLOSER to fantasy sports as something that keeps me sane (and in touch with friends and family).

I find myself tweeting again and wanting to blog again too.  I feel like if I write while I am out here and deployed, it might make the time easier to tolerate and move by more quickly.

Who knows. Anyways, I already have a couple of posts in mind, so look for some late season baseball advice and some pre-season football advice real soon.

11 July 2010

Saying farewell to a collection.....

I come to you this evening, in a semi-sad mood. The man above has left my personal collection.

For those of you who do not recognize him, that is New York Yankees Starting Pitcher, Javier Vazquez. Through eBay, I met a fellow JV collector who, it seems, has much deeper pockets and a MUCH better and larger JV collection than I do. I soon realized we had been hurting each other, by affecting the outcome of many eBay auctions, in turn costing each other money in the long run.

Just about an hour ago, I agreed with my fellow collector on a paypal amount, to send all of my Vazquez cards his way.

I am going to use the funds to further enhance my Hidalgo collection (have a white whale ending in under two hours), my RC collection and other aspects (such as my Astros Team Collection).

You will be missed, Javier.

09 July 2010

Mail Post #3: The Start of an NBA Player Personal Collection

The last year or so, the NBA has slowly, but surely, been pulling me back into enjoying the game.

Though it still has plenty of egotistical, me first players, other, team first, unselfish stars were beginning to shine and bring a fresh face to the game (or refreshen the face they had).

From Kevin Durant in OKC, Dirk Nowitzki revamping himself in Dallas, Chris Paul in New Orleans or David Lee in NY, you had guys playing for the team first, themselves second.

That's why I decided to start a David Lee PC: tough nosed rebounder, active on the offensive side of the ball, has improved every year he has been in the league, works on his weaknesses and never worries about personal stats.

I started this collection off with a bang, focusing primarily on patches, autographs and low numbered game used and parallel cards.

09/10 Absolute Memorabilia Spectrum 22/25 

09/10 Panini Limited Jersey 05/10

09/10 Panini Timeless Treasures Jersey Prime 05/10

08/09 Topps T-51 Murad Autograph

05/06 Upper Deck Trilogy Signs of Stardom

05/06 SP Signature Edition Authentic Signatures

09/10 Bowman 48A Auto & Base Card
07/08 SP Rookie Threads SL Multi Marks 2 David Lee/Rudy Gay 29/50

09/10 Classics Dress Code Prime Patch/Auto 01/25
Pretty nice start and I have more on the way, that can really build a collection up in a nice way. I plan on adding more base cards soon, but figure with so many of his nice cards hitting eBay, I am going to see how many I can land before going after the smaller fish.

Mail Post #2: The Beginning-ish of a new corner of my PC

This beginning, is something I had been wanting to start for a while and recently decided, hey, what the heck, why not, let's hop right in and get it going.

What is this, you ask? Collecting modern and vintage hall of fame rookies (including those who will become hall of famers a la Griffey Jr., Jeter, etc. and those who I think SHOULD be in the hall of fame, like Dale Murphy), primarily of the Topps corporation (though, some will be of the company they are none for, like the Upper Deck Griffey).

I already had a few of these in stock, originally as trade bait:
1983 Topps Wade Boggs
1985 Topps Kirby Puckett
1985 Topps Roger Clemens
1985 Topps Mark McGwire
1984 Topps Don Mattingly
1982 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr.
2001 Topps Ichiro

Here are my most recent additions (with a handful more on the way from eBay):
1977 Topps Dale Murphy #476

1976 Topps Dennis Eckersley #98

1979 Topps Ozzie Smith #116

1993 Topps Derek Jeter #98

As you can see, already some of the bigger names from 1975 on, but still a ton missing. I do have Paul Molitor, Rickey Henderson, Andrew Dawson, Gary Carter and Eddie Murray rookies on the way and I will be sure to share them when received!!

08 July 2010

Mail Post #1: Newest Additions to the Javier Vazquez Collection

In what has easily been the largest addition to my personal collections in the recent month, is the additions to my Javier Vazquez collection.

I received a large mix of Vazquez and Richard Hidalgo cards from Sportlots recently (all base cards) and I did not keep track of that, but believe I did add about 30 or so Vazquez's to my ever growing collection.

The cards I will be showing, though, make me very happy. They include five new autographed cards, four low numbered parallel cards and one very sweet triple patch card.

2003 Prime Patches Team Materials Triple Patch 033/150

2005 Donruss 25th Anniversary 11/25
2005 Donruss Studio Studio Proof 01/25

2003 Donruss Elite Status 07/23

2008 UD Premier 4/5

2006 Ovation Spotlight Signatures

2004 Topps Pristine Personal Endorsements

2004 Flair Autograph Collection 184/187 
2004 SP Chirography SP Chirography Duo Tone 60, 72/75

2003 Donruss Champions 38/50

Wow, right? That's a pretty good haul for a few weeks (the past three or so). It's the most autos I have added at one time in quite some time (like, when I first started collecting Javier). It felt great knocking out some much needed lower number parallels as well.

Recharging the ol' Batteries

Recently, I stepped back from the keyboard and kind of took a little sabbatical from writing about this great sport (and hobby) of ours.

No writing on the blog.
Little writing on message boards (and 90% of that writing had to do with off topic stuff).
No writing down ideas that pop into my head.

Why, you may ask? You weren't writing THAT much as it is, you say.

Very true, that may be. Sometimes, I just need to step back and read. Read what other bloggers are saying. Actual "writers" (by actual writers, I mean people who write for a living, be it on a website, for a magazine, in books, etc.). And listen. Listen to Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight (no MLB Channel out here, so I miss that stuff), live broadcasts, tape delayed broadcasts, movies, the news, everything.

And now, I am back with a ton of mail posts (seriously, like 4 mail posts, one for each area of my personal collection), my own opinion on the All Star game (including snubs), my upsettedness about not being able to participate in Gint-A-Cuffs and even a Wants post.

This, my friends, is just a post letting everyone know I am back and I am okay (and, I have yet to deploy....as the fly date for my group keeps getting moved around).

Anyways, I have a lot of typing to do and will try to space these next 8 posts or so out over the next 4 days or so.

27 June 2010

Fantasy Baseball Update

With little cardboard on my mind (other than starting my 1st ever basketball player collection, i'll save that for a later date), I figured I would update my little blog world with the current state of my fantasy baseball leagues.

Only three really matter to me (I am in five), so those are the only three I will talk about.

League 1:  Balk Four - Card Bloggers Unite - After meandering in the middle of the pack for part of the season, I have settled into the 3rd/4th place territory for the past three weeks or so. With Josh Johnson and Ubaldo Jimenez (numbers 2 and 1, respectively, in the Cy young race) anchoring my pitching and a plethora of hot bats (including David Wright, Hanley Ramirez, Joey Votto, Aubrey huff, Rickie Weeks and Chris coghlan) things are looking up this week and, hopefully, for the foreseeable future. I have an abundance of 1B eligible players (Votto, Berkman, Reynolds, Huff) and I would really like to move one or two of them for some more pitching help.

League 2: Green Ecks and Haim - Sons of Pitches - This is my premier keeper league, in its first year. I have made a TON of trades in this league and they have me sitting pretty in second place (but TWELVE AND A HALF games out of first; seriously, that guy has an en fuego team). My latest trades had me sending Adam Wainwright/Rafael Furcal for Brandon Phillips/Kris Medlen. I needed offense and have solid pitching to withstand trading a top 3 SP. The other recent trade had me sending Alex Rodriguez and Austin Jackson and receiving Carl Crawford and Tim Hudson. Crawford is swinging the bat hot right now and stealing bases at a ridiculous clip, while Hudson has quietly been producing as a number one starting pitcher. Add those guys to Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, John Buck, Matt Kemp, Ichiro, Hunter Pence and my offensive stats are finally booming. Hudson and Medlen join a pitching staff anchored by Josh Johnson (again, he is a trend), Javier Vazquez, Stephen Strasburg (who will be a round TWELVE keeper for me, which is tremendous value), and, what I believe, is the best bullpen in the league (we count holds): Andrew Bailey, JJ Putz, Leo Nunez, Luke gregerson and Brad Lidge. We only get 5 keepers, and they are based off of the round they were drafted in, so my current 5 keeper scenario looks like: Strasburg (12th rd), Votto (3rd), Johnson (7th), Phillips (4th) and Crawford (2nd). Now, you might be wondering why I didn't include Kemp, but it is all based on value. All 5 of the guys I plan on keeping have all performed OVER there round they were drafted in, meaning they would go higher next year, whereas, there is no going higher than the 1st rd. I get a top 5 1B, top 3 2B, top 6 SP, possible top 10 SP and a top 3 OF.

League 3: Cougars 4 Lyfe - AIM Salary Dynasty - If you couldn't tell this is a) a salary league and b) a dynasty league. The only difference between a dynasty and a keeper league is that in a dynasty league, you keep everyone. In this particular league, you keep everyone who is still in contract by the end of the year. This is a team I took over during the season and the old owner was a dead beat, so it needed some work. My latest two trades have helped the team quite a bit. Trade one had me sending Carlos Pena, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Reyes and Hiroki Kuroda for Adam Wainwright, Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher and Erick Aybar. I then turned around and swapped Wainwright and Ian Kinsler for Matt Garza, Billy butler and Ben Zobrist. This made the team a) younger and b) full of more contracts that were cheaper and longer. The team could still use some work (SP is suspect and my relief corps is sketchy) and it will probably finish the season as one of the worst (currently 9th out of 12), but I plan on being active and sticking it through the end of the season.

I have a few more posts in me tonight, but not all will be posted tonight. I have a lot going on around the Balk Four HQ, so I will be taking time off from the blog, so these posts will pop up sporadically, giving me the time to prepare myself for deployment to Afghanistan.

23 June 2010

U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A!!!

 I know this isn't the first post on the US Men's National soccer team's win over Algeria, which makes them the winner of their group.

But, I am to damn excited to care.

After a SECOND goal was disallowed (seriously, someone does NOT want the US in this World Cup), it took until extra time before Landon Donovan netted the game winner.

The US has far too many missed chances this game, with Clint Dempsey and Hercules Gomez both missing a few shots early in the first and second halves that could have put the team more at ease late. Lucky for them, they were able to pull out the victory anyways.

Not sure who they will be playing at the end of the week, but I am sure the US will have their chests swelled and pride high after winning their group for the first time in a long time.


20 June 2010

A Random Mish Mash of Sunday Happenings

Well, ever since my wife and son flew back to the states my house has been A) way too quiet, B) way too lonely and C) way too boring.

So what have I used all this extra time for?

Well, cardboard silly.

I spent a decent amount of time yesterday and today getting my 2008 Topps Set in order, to find out what holes need to be filled. I also counted EVERY single one of my Houston Astros cards in my team collection (this does not include my Richard Hidalgo cards) and came to a VERY large number, one that was much larger than I thought it would be.

-- On the 2008 Topps set, these are my needs:
  • Series 1 - 150, 220, 298
  • Series 2 - 343, 348, 349, 354, 364, 365, 370, 371, 376, 402, 405, 409, 415, 423, 450, 455, 463, 496, 514, 516, 536, 540, 547, 553, 562, 571, 576, 579, 580, 584, 595, 597, 615, 619, 624, 628, 631, 632, 642
-- Total number of Houston Astros cards in my team collection (mind you, this is autos, game used, inserts, parallels, base, etc.) is a whopping four thousand, one hundred and seventeen or, 4,117, for those less inclined to read a number out. Like I said, much larger than I thought, though it is fueled by my excess of doubles on 80's and 90's junk wax.

-- I also worked on my Astros Topps team sets, but have yet to record the ones I need. I plan on doing this over the following week, since I have very little to do then.

-- I will also have many, many new cards to post soon, as I have 17 auctions from eBay I still have not received. One won't arrive until the beginning of July (4 boxes of Allen & Ginter, my first box purchases in about 4 years), while the rest should arrive within the next 7-8 business days.

-- For the rest of tonight (it's already 9:23pm here), I plan on typing up my COMPLETE trade list of all my serial numbered and non-serial numbered inserts, parallels, rookies, the few game used I have and the odd auto or two I didn't sell, so I can post it as it's own separate entity and hopefully work a few trades soon.

-- Finally, within the next three weeks or so, I will FINALLY deploy to Afghanistan. I do not know which day yet, as I have things I am getting done back here in Germany (shipping my household goods back to the states, clearing housing, general Army stuff), but I will give everyone a rough estimate, when I do know. Don't fret, I am sure I will post with the same in frequencies as I do now, but maybe with some odd stories peppered in.

As per usual, if you got any questions, comments, gripes, what have you, feel free to email me (anicolausk at yahoo dot com), leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter (@BalkFour).

17 June 2010

Wait....what's that? That's the Maildays music.....

If you get the reference in the title, you probably have watched wrestling at some point in time from 1988 to now. Ol' JR and his ability to hype up any incoming wrestler into the ring.

The difference between me and him? I am hyping up my 2nd mail day post out of the last 3 posts I have had, but, seriously, the last two times I have hit up the post office, I have had a combined TWENTY bubble mailers/packages waiting for me.

Yeah, I went a little crazy on eBay and COMC, but still, I have been happy with EVERYTHING I have picked up, and that's what it is all about, right?

On to the mail:

Some Hidalgo stuff (including only my 2nd game used card of his):

The game used.


Elite gold Status #ed /100


Two cards I bought while drunk tweeting and caught "off guard" by a fellow blogger (i'm sure you guys can figure out who she is):



Two new hobby staples:

Don Mattingly Topps Rookie

Ken Griffey Jr. Sweet spot auto


My first foray into prospecting since about 2005:

He was a supplemental pick for the Red Sox and has ALREADY signed and I think will be playing short season ball.

The last card of the day, deserves to be bigger than the rest:

2009 Topps Chrome Javier Vazquez Superfractor


Looks even better here, next to one of his Bowman Chrome Cousins:

I have plenty more (by plenty more, I mean 9 more) packages on the way from eBay, plus about 8 things I am currently watching and plan on attempting to win.

Sorry about having two mail day posts so close together, but they were both phenomenal to me, so they deserved the posts.

Bob Bonner: An Orioles Future Star

You didn't think I was seriously going to do an entire post about Bob Bonner, did you?
I'm sure one of my fellow bloggers would truly enjoy this rookie (i'm looking at you Beardy) and I am glad to have picked this up relatively cheap off of eBay recently.

I was always a huge fan of Ripken growing up. Not just because of the Streak, but just because he played the game the right way. From running out ground balls, willing to move from SS to 3B to help out the team and always giving his all, he was quite the role model for a budding young little league star.

Oddly enough, even though I am an Astros fan, he influenced my decision to pick my playing decision moreso then any other player (SS) and also influenced the way I played and practiced. I was (and still am not) the biggest of guys, so I played to my strengths, which has been as an exceptional slap hitter, speed, solid defense and an immeasurable amount of hustle. Not to mention, my ability to play through injuries (including getting hit in the head TWICE in the same game by throws or pitches).

With the poor play in Orioles land recently, I think a good shake up at the top should result in Cal as coach. Imagine him instilling the Ripken way from the top of the big league team to the bottom. Imagine Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and all that young pitching garnering his advice and putting it to good use.

The youth of the O's depends on them having a leader who has experience on the field and the ability to hold ones self to a higher standard off of it (not that they have any off the field problems, but it never hurts).

C'mon Beardy, join me in my fight to get a TRUE Oriole as the leader in that clubhouse.

14 June 2010

Small highlights in a rather poor day.....

So, I missed going to the post office Friday, which resulted in me having TEN, yes, TEN, total envelopes/packages waiting for me, all eBay purchases.

The poor part of the day? My wife and son flew back to the states earlier today (about 8 hours ago) and I won't be seeing them in person again until around the end of January/beginning of February. I knew this day would come, but still, it is tough being in what is now a basically empty full house, ya know?

I guess I could post some of the highlights of the mail day (ok, some of these are from last week, but I didn't scan them in until today):

Some pretty awesome Javier Vazquez personal collection stuff:

2007 Topps Series 1 Yellow Printing Plate
2001 Donruss Class of 2001 Diamond Aces 3 Color Logo Patch #ed 3/3
2002 Donruss Best of Fan Club League Leaders Auto #ed 85/300
2004 Playball "Green" Parallel #ed 07/15
2009 Bowman Chrome Red Refractor #ed 1/5

A few Richard Hidalgo things (thanks to some good deals from Syndicate Sports Cards on eBay and COMC):

2004 Sweet Spot Sweet Gloves Auto #ed 10/15
1996 Fleer Ultra Golden Prospect Gold Medallion - This looks really awesome in person, as it is a see-through "gold". Pretty sweet.
2003 Donruss ReCollection Collection Auto "2001 Donruss" #ed 2/9
2003 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia Auto Plaque #ed 66/135
1998 Pacific Revolution Rookies & Hardball Heroes "Gold" #ed 14/50
2004 Leaf Limited Threads "Russell Laundry Patch" 1/1
1997 Bowman's Best Mirror Image "Atomic Refractor", "Refractor" and Inverted

I also picked up an 82 Topps Ripken RC, a 2001 Topps Ichiro RC and a few Bryce Brentz USA autos.

A great mail day to kind of sweep away the clouds from a rather dreary day (quite true also, as it did/is raining as well).

I did get to watch some soccer though (saw the Japan upset and part of the Italy tie). Now I am just burning time until I have to go up to work and issue out M4's to all the soldiers headed out to Afghanistan soon (I will be there in a few weeks as well).

09 June 2010

Nationals, Marlins and Celtics, Oh My!!!

Well, if you have been living in a cave, under a rock or on an isolated island the last week or so, I am glad to inform you that Stephen Strasburg, the most hyped rookie of all time, will be making his major league debut today, against the AAAA Pittsburgh Pirates.

Not to be forgotten, wunderkid Michael Stanton will now be patrolling the Florida outfield, starting with tonight's game. is promotion comes at the expense of yet-to-prove himself, young "phenom" (I use that term loosely) Cameron Maybin.

Of course, the biggest game of the night, is Celtics-Lakers, Game 3 NBA Finals. The only thing that pisses me off about this series, is the absurdly awkward days off. Why have two days off between Games 1 and 2, if no travel is involved and then only one day off when you travel THREE THOUSAND miles across the country for game 3? Can anyone rationally explain this? I mean, did the Celtics players need an extra day for shopping on Rodeo Drive?

Needless to say, I will watch both Strasburgs debut and the Celtics-Lakers game, albeit only part of the former and all of the latter. Though my heart lies in baseball, my hate lies in Kobe Bryant.

I was going to live blog during the game, but I would much rather follow along Bill Simmons' live blog, from court side in Boston, and chirp along via my Twitter stream (@BalkFour).

Feel free to follow me there (just click on the link or at the top left there) or hop on ESPN.com and follow along with the Sports Guys' live blog.

05 June 2010

A Century Old

Of course by century, I mean 100 posts, but you get the gist.

Two posts ago was my 100th post, which actually came at a much slower rate then I would have thought. Then again, I haven't been able to keep a passion for writing in me.

I feel like it has just been a ton of things that have been keeping me back. Stress from my upcoming deployment, stress from my wife not being back in the states yet, stress from the Astros terrible season so far and my overall lack of motivation to write, though I always have something going through my head.

I changed the way the blog looked. That didn't help. I recently came into a little bit of money to help feed my collecting. Hasn't helped much (but maybe the mail days I have will).

Hell, I didn't even notice my 100th post until BA Benny's Baseball Card Buffet had his 100th post contest (which, by the way, happened at a much quicker rate than mine did) and posted a little link to it, which happened to be my 101st post. And then, not even that encouraged me to post.

Maybe it's the fact it has been tough for me to put my words into action since, well, since I drank my way through two semesters of college? I was a brilliant (well, I thought I was brilliant) writer all throughout high school and even in my two semesters of college, but then I stopped writing. With no assignments (and no blog at the time) I had no reason to write. I spent all of my free time (IE: time not working) wooing girls, playing video games, drinking, experimenting with plants (it was short lived, but still, it happened), playing sports and hanging out with friends. Not to mention, my collecting habits stalled because A) less funds available (it's a lot tougher blowing money when you are no longer living with your parents) and B) busy having a social life, with not much room on the side.

So now, it seems the only time I feel like writing (when I am not tweeting randomness) is when I drink. Since I drink a lot less often then I used to, I blog less often than I used to. Which sucks, because I need a way to get whatever pops into my head out of there.

Ok, enough with the ranting randomness.

I've hit two round numbers recently: 100 posts (which you know) and 40 followers (which you may not know). Yay me, I supposed. More importantly, I am closing in on two big collecting goals for this year: my total number of cards in each of my primary personal collections, Javier Vazquez and Richard Hidalgo. Thanks to Check Out My Cards, Sportlots and a rash of cards on eBay, both of my goals (400 total Hidalgo cards and 300 total Vazquez cards) are within reach and may be surpassed by July 31st.

Which leads me to my next point: I haven't shared much of my recent maildays, but I am scanning more often, so I hope to show them soon. I have new autographs, low numbered parallels, a 1/1 or two (or three, maybe), a little prospecting (which I will talk about soon) and even random rookies and a nice hall of fame autograph or two.

Since I sold off all of my game used and autos from my non-p/c, I have decided everything I buy will either be PC or prospecting, so I haven't strayed from that. Add in that I came into a decent sum of money for collecting purposes only and you have a recipe for success.

Uh, if you have made it this far, thanks for letting me rant and ramble. I try not to do it often on the blog, but it seems to be happening more often than not lately. For your dedication to this post, I leave you with my latest eBay win that brought a super big smile to my face:

31 May 2010

100th Post Contest......

.....over at BA Benny's Baseball Card Buffet.

What, you thought it was for this blog?

Well, not yet. I need to formulate a contest first. Look for it in my next post ;)

30 May 2010

Newest Autos to the PC Collection

Well, over the past few months I have been able to pick up auto cards of my two main PC guys (Richard Hidalgo & Javier Vazquez) at pretty considerable amounts, so I felt like showing them off.

Javier Vazquez

First up, I will start with one of the newer auto sets, from 2010 Chicle.
 This is an Artist's Autograph, numbered 6/10. I really like two things about the Chicle set: on card autos and, well, I really like the art work on his cards.

Next up is a hard to find Leaf Certified Material Mirror Gold auto.

 Now, onto the three recent Richard Hidalgo auto pick ups, starting off with something from far south of the border.

 This is a 94-95 Line Up Venezuelan auto, shipped from, well, Venezuela. The seller has two other autos up for sale, but for more than I paid for this one, so I am holding back on buying them. Please note, this isn't a bad scan, just what is on the "top loader", which seems to just be a crazy piece of plastic all around the card.

 2003 Donruss Team Heroes auto, 74/100. I've seen a few here and there, but usually for BINs much higher than I would be willing to hit on, even for a PC card. I hate sticker autos, but it doesn't look TERRIBLE on this card, in my opinion.

 1997 Scoreboard Visions Signings auto. These are generally easy to find, but some of the bigger names in the Scoreboard sets have a tendency to be faked, so a lot of people ignore this set. A great early, on card auto of Hidalgo.

Well, those are all the auto'ed cards I have gotten in recently. I have a few more big mailday packages coming in soon, including 2 from Check Out My Cards, one from sportlots (just a large handful of base, but more to knock off of the ol' checklist) and a decent sized lot from Syndicate Sports Cards, in an off eBay deal, where they were willing to take an offer of less than the total combined price for all of the cards. And, yes, the 3 larger lots include more autos.

Thanks to the sell of all of my game used and auto cards that were not PC, I have been able to work very diligently at my 2010 Collecting goals and should be able to knock out a lot by the end of the year.

Thanks for looking guys.