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: