Saturday, January 17, 2015

Phoning It In #4

I started to like an insert set this year; this surprised me quite a bit.

I mentioned it when I pulled the first card, featuring Gregory Polanco. There was a certain painterly effect to the image on the card.

Everything gets all soft and fuzzy, rather than harshly pixelated. Almost like the card is hand-colored.

I also liked the neat things I found on some of the cards, such as the guy in the crowd on that card, taking a cell-phone picture of the photographer.

Or this card, that I will be keeping in a mini-collection:
I like cards that reveal that the player wears a Cross. I'm not particularly religious in that I don't go to Church, but I remember and use the things I learned there when I was younger, and I like that Topps now uses images that reveal a player's Faith. I think this is about the 5th such card that I have found.

And in general, I just like the total image result:
Even when there isn't a blurry crowd painted in behind the player by the digital effect selected at Topps HQ. The player image is still soft, and somehow more likable and humanizing.

There are 30 of these cards I thought, 3 cards for each of ten players, though not in every case. Leave it to Topps to mess up a simple format and cause OCD itch in their customers (something I always like, actually). And it turns out there are in total 90 of them, as these appeared in Series 1, Series 2, and Update. I think I would have liked them more if each player got one card in each Series, as the year went along.

It wasn't until I bought the Hobby Box of Update and had a bunch of these that I started to appreciate them. I didn't rip a lot of regular Topps in 2014.

I even thought, hmm, inserts from S1/S2/Update are pretty easy to come by. Maybe I'll go for a set of these and enjoy a few binder pages of them in the future.

Then I realized I had the "complete set" of one of the players - Gregory Polanco. I noted how the text on the backs of many of these is so rather pointless when I bought my first pack of Update this year. Err, last year. A big highlight in a single-A game. Really?

But I won't be worrying about the filler type card back texts on these, and that's not because I decided to keep them doubled up in the binder pages, a decision I make on a checklist-by-checklist basis.

Looking at the Polanco cards all together, I started thinking...
...I think I saw that same basic pose before. In this very same checklist even, of this very same player.

At least the third of these cards was different.
And there's one of those nifty Camo logos Topps seems to ever more love to use on their baseball cards. But I started thinking, I've seen another card just recently with the Pirates black uniform and the Camo-block-P:

And out the window went the idea of building 90 of these cards. I'm not sure I've noticed Topps repeating images right inside the same Master Checklist of a single product release before.

Whenever I win the lottery of Free Time to sort all my baseball cards, these inserts will be reduced to my favorite 9 on a single page, rather than 90.

I still like the fronts. It could have been a contender.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A One and Done

Well you don't see cards like this one much any more...
Another Topps RC of some player you've never heard of, in the Update set? Yeah, yeah, I know, you see those all the time.

But seriously, unless you are pretty deep into following the Yankees, or possibly the Brewers, I'd be willing to wager you've never heard of Zelous Wheeler.

And that is probably true even if you were a dedicated prospector who has complete sets of every Bowman product line going back to 2007, when Wheeler was drafted in the 19th round by the Brewers.

Because ole 'Zel has never had a baseball card before. But then, hitting a Home Run in your second ever MLB At Bat can probably get you one.

Unfortunately, despite those two truly illustrious accomplishments - I mean really, don't YOU truly wish you had hit a Home Run in the Major Leagues and had your very own authentic Topps baseball card? - Wheeler went on to hit just .193 across 57 At Bats for the Yankees over the second half of the season.

And none of this even makes for all that interesting of a baseball card, I know. Although becoming one of the only 750 people on an MLB 25 man roster on any given day of the season is truly an achievement in life, I'm not that into the Yankees or the trivia answers about their ever more cursed corner position lately to like this card as much as I now do. Though I also like looking at it and thinking the guy straight up looks like a linebacker in football and having the back of the card confirm that to be true for me.

But I like it the most because there will probably never be another Zelous Wheeler baseball card. A true One and Done.

Perhaps one might fall out of a bag of potato chips somewhere in Japan next season, because that's where Wheeler will be playing as his contract was somehow sold by the Yankees to the Japanese team. (I have no idea how that process still works in the game - sounds so 1950s). I wouldn't count that one as a Two and Done though.

I never thought I would find another One and Done card in a pack of Topps baseball cards, when for so many players these days, an actual baseball card of them actually playing Major League Baseball is almost an after-thought for many collectors, and a player generally has quite an oeuvre of cards by the time they see their first day in The Show. Sometimes I wonder if there are collectors who don't even own any true MLB cards and I realize, yes, there probably is.

There is one other very intriguing element to this card though:
I really can't find any reference to the Yankees appearing with a gold logo this year. I would have though UniWatch would be on the case here. Topps got this image from MLB I think, or MLB purchased it from the same photographer or agency that Topps did; here is his MLB bio pic:
Though I had hoped to keep this post all thematically correct with just one image, I had to share this odd NY logo with you.

Along the way of figuring out just who this player is (was), I also ran across this odd fact - did you know that Topps issued a baseball card for Mario Cuomo? That's a link to a blog post on that, if you can't quite see the hyperlink color there.

So there goes the theme again - two subjects in one post. Ahh well, that's what happens when you stare at baseball cards too long.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The rest of the Hobby Box

When I write up a blog post, I start with a pile of cards to scan. I don't worry too much about how long it will take to describe those cards, which might be a process of checking some other web links, downloading other images, who knows? Once you start opening packs of baseball cards, who knows where you'll end up?

Opening packs the last several years, one type of card surprises me most of the time - I always forget minis will be in the pack:
I think the Mets are becoming my favorite team to collect, graphically at least. Their orange-and-blue just says "Baseball" to me, more than any other team.

I had pulled just a few of these previously this year, and hadn't thought to collect them. Until this slice of team-colors-baesball-card perfection. I also have finally figured out a perfect way to "collect" any type of card I care to define - just pick my 9 favorites for a binder page. I am moving towards permanently keeping cards based nearly completely on their visual appeal, and that is nice and easy now for the mini cards with the new mini binder pages - the news of the year in enjoying baseball cards, if you ask me.

I saw the Jose Abreu card from this checklist on a blog today, and that had a cool tree in the image, so that one will join the page, and I'm sure I will be able to find 7 others that work as well as Cone's card with the great Mets leg stripe and crazy flow of lines here, there, and all over the card.

It also really took all the way till the end of the collecting year for me to realize how much the base Topps design this year owes to 1989. Maybe this has been commented on elsewhere, I hope so and would like to hear more thoughts on that idea. Maybe that all happened in August of 2013 when the design was revealed, 5 1/2 months before any of us could hold the cards in our hand. The heavy use of foil this year and the just simply inadequate use of color doesn't lead to the quick comparison, but much like the 1987 & 1962 sets, 2014 should be forever linked to 1989, and that was no accident; I am a little amazed it took this mini card for me to notice all this. Maybe I'll even finally do something with that shoebox full of 89 cards - probably in some sort of project divisible by 9.

Sometimes lately, another team is feeding my orange card jones:
It's such a pity the images have to supply the color on the cards this year, though fortunately most of the teams all have nice colorful alternate uniforms to create colorful baseball cards with. Personally though I would be happy with Topps deciding black is the secondary color for the Marlins, not blue. And this jersey makes me wonder how long it will be until we get to see Marlins Man on a baseball card. Perhaps he is a bit of a polarizing figure for that, but if you had his type of bank account, what would you do with it? Maybe if Topps would drop the zoom zoom zoom on the World Series cards some day, we'll get a cameo. His own card would amuse me too - a run of "Super Fan" short-prints, perhaps? If only I could Tweet @Topps, but if I were to join Twitter, well, you wouldn't get as many blog posts, that I'm sure of. I don't see adding more Social Media to my life in the future, at all.

There was one last '89 mini that caught my eye; not sure if it will make the cut for a favored 9 of the 150 issued, but I kinda like this one:
What, no Eye Black? (Which is what caught my attention here). I'm not sure why road grey makes the team color base here, as compared to the all-orange majesty of that Mets card, though I like how using road grey unis with team names on cards turns out, every so often, and the script of the 89 design works perfectly for that, so this might make the cut. Or maybe I'll just hope there are 9 Mets and Marlins 89 minis to work with; I'll probably just shop the whole checklist on COMC which will likely end up with 50 copies of each of these, on sale for 40¢ each. I hope.

A big part of ripping packs is watching for your favorite players; if a fave is an All-Star you are all set in Update, but other times, you've been waiting all year to see the player again:
Nate McLouth is not one of my "favorite" players, but he is the close as I have to a Hometown player as he lives just 90 miles away. I think about him, and thus baseball, and thus baseball cards, whenever I drive by his exit. Maybe if he had started out in the AL I would have been following his career more closely. This is actually a pretty good Night Card, almost as good as they get any more in the Topps Torsos sets; the stadium lights reflected in his helmet make a crazy pattern that mirrors the wave of the design somewhat - you'll have to see that in-hand with your own baseball card.

I thought this could be the last card for McLouth but he is signed for next year; though as a 4th/5th outfielder these days, I suspect I won't see him on-card again till next October, in the Update set.

If a favorite player is an All-Star though, Update will be giving you a new entry in the PC:
Another set, another great Salvador Perez card. This card almost makes me want to consider how Topps decided who gets black-ink-on-secondary-team-color and who gets white ink for the team name, but since that is such a tiny portion of the card, who cares? Anyhow, Perez always seems to be in a good mood, or a nicely focused, game-mode on his cards, and this one is another keeper for me.

Another player I have started to follow, but mostly only when I pick up his new card, is Justin Turner:
Although it perhaps remains to be seen if he will be starting at the hot corner for LA next year, as in playing every day, or playing a lot of days off the bench all over the infield, I think Topps will always try and put him on a Turning Two card. I'll be watching.

Although I always like cards with imminent bat contact, I always hate cards with helmet-less players doing something with a bat…especially actually hitting a baseball, not just posing.  So though Frazier had a pretty good year and made his first All-Star Game, this card might not make it onto his eventual best-of 9 card Player Collection I am slowly assembling. 

That card did have some good news for me though - it is clearly from the Home Run Derby, but it is just his All-Star card - there were none of the goofy Home Run Derby cards this year. The reaction to those was never that great, and now perhaps they are gone.

I had one final non-Tiger to watch for as part of a Player Collection, due to their recent cards, and that was Chris Sale:
Shudder. The hat, the hat. Uhh, no thanks. I think Major League Baseball was going for the triangular graphic design used on several teams' batting helmets back in the 70s with the All-Star Caps this year, I guess, but instead of a nice spare triangle, we got a trapezoid. Or a rhombus. Or who knows what other crazy geometry word I haven't used since grade school; though even grade schoolers could have told MLB officials how ugly those hats are. This Chris Sale card won't make the Hall of 9 on his page either.

Topps, though, likes to purchase photos of players wearing unique caps, let's wash away that All-Star cap right away:
That's not a super unique ball cap, just the special one Cardinal cap the Cards wear on Sundays at home, or about 11-12 games a year, though probably very few in between the trading deadline and the image deadline for the new Update cards. I could probably use that fact to figure out what game that photo was from, if it wasn't such a boring photo. I can't understand why Topps doesn't give just a few more pitchers some of the casual cards in a set - relaxing in the dug-out, at-ease during batting practice, something, anything, once-in-while-at-least, Please?

But Topps also likes capturing the Memorial Day caps:
At least this card works well with the design, we get a cool red glove to admire, and isn't such an overall waste of the usually wonderful horizontal card format.

And Topps likes July 4th at the ballpark:
Now this would have been a nice image to zoom in to a torso from the belt up, like the Lackey card, and really show off that once-a-season cap, but instead we get a featured view of Jurrjens' butt. Is there any method to Topps Torso sets? No, I'm pretty sure there isn't.

I did pull one of the shortly-printed photo variations in this Hobby Box, though I haven't finished checking for sparkles or saber-metric card backs, and it featured a Check Out My Special Cap shot too:
I hope Topps didn't pay a lot extra for that photo, though again it would have been nice to have something as unique as a New York Yankee wearing a hat that's not blue featured a little bit more, as in this shot from July 4, 2014. And I don't even like the Yankees. 

The hot RC in this set, the Jacob DeGrom, has a nice photo variation with the Mets camo uniform, though I think they might wear that every Sunday. I want that card, but I'll probably wait a few years unit DeGrom is a solid #3 starter, which card collectors think is just about total failure, and pick up that particular SP for a buck somewhere.

I did get a unique Yankees card in this set though, it was quite noticeable after pulling 1,209 Yankees cards in my baseball card collecting career:
A warm-ups / Batting Practice uniform. The road version no less. I was just babbling the other day how I wanted to see a few new wind-breaker cards, and though I am still waiting for that, we did get fair and balanced journalistic coverage of the Titans of the American League East:
This set just simply needs these uniforms, I'll just say, though I really have no idea why MLB teams have special uniforms just to wear for an hour or two before a game.

Ahh, the mysteries of baseball, our most quirky sport, which surely must serve up our quirkiest sports cards:
Oh, Snap! I really think Julio is about to give us a real Oh, Snap, on that one. And this could be the first baseball card ever featuring earrings. Yep, earrings. There are actually two more cards in this set with that new feature, believe it or not, so it would be hard to say which card broke that barrier; though I have to think this is the first set of cards to include such an unexpected image, you can never count out 1990s baseball cards on any such question. Maybe this is just the first one to feature a pair of earrings, as are the other two you can discover on your own.

I guess when you wish to see baseball players in their warm-up duds, be careful what you wish for. These can supply some nice casual images though:
I like that card, though knowing Cruz is from the Dominican Republic really sets up it to contrast with this one:
I mean, Apple Pie, Chevrolet, and Derek Jeter, am I right? What could be more American than that picture? I remarked on the first card I pulled from a retail fat pack of update, the Francisco Cervelli card, how the Yankees never put their iconic red-white&blue top-hat and bat logo on their uniforms, and here comes MLB All-Star uniforms to prove me wrong, and I finally get a good shot of a New York Yankee in a red hat as I was just wishing.

My last Derek Jeter card? Well, my last active roster Derek Jeter card at least. I expect one final Derek Jeter sunset card in 2015 Series One somehow, and possibly an image variation of that, and some 2015 insert action, and then will come 2016 baseball cards with some more new Jeters, somehow….what's the over/under on the first year Topps doesn't print a new Derek Jeter card? 2021? I'll go with that in the pool.

I like Derek Jeter cards though. I'll miss him. Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo, and his cards always remind me that I used to hang out there while he was in high school there.

Usually, many of the All-Star cards are just not all that remarkable, but this one definitely invites a hearty What's Up With That?
You just very, very rarely see this body language on a baseball card. And you really shouldn't. If you don't know anything about what body language indicates in life, well all I can tell you is that this is very negative. I thought this might be a little bit of Topps Voodoo as they selected this picture during Oakland's post All-Star-Game offensive implosion. Of course, Topps had no way to know that would happen, or that the A's would lose the quintuple coin-flip game that was the truly wild AL Wild Card game this year. And this card came out well before the A's traded Norris to the Padres for prospects, like seemingly every other MLB team did recently (where did the Padres get all those prospects anyway? Maybe it really is a big advantage to play like a AAA team for the last forever, we'll see). I think something dramatic (and dramatically bad) happened in the Oakland clubhouse right after the All-Star game, and this card knows what it was, but won't tell us.

So I just hope St. Louis can keep it steady-as-she-goes next year:
Two of these cards? Not nice, Topps, not nice. Redbirds in a blue uniform…these All-Star cards are just going all weird on me this year:
When the rain comes, baseball players have to just grin and bear it I guess. I'm happy to get another Rain Card, those are pretty darn rare.  But it sure looks like a nice sunny day on all the other All-Star cards. And more of these red teams wearing blue uniforms…these cards are really confusing me now:
From the Independent Leagues to the All-Star Game, truly a Cinderella Story? Nope, the Minnesota Twins just get to wear an All-Star Game patch on their uniforms, not on their baseball cards, for the most part. It's too bad Glenn Perkins couldn't have been pictured in the Twins alternate uni, as on this card, so you could try and figure out which League Minnesota actually plays in, which would probably stump baseball fans on the coasts.

Colabello was the feel-good story of the young season in April, but then pitchers probably watched the video and their coaches probably analyzed his strike zone and poor Chris was toast. Maybe we'll see him again in next year's Update set if he ever makes the Toronto 25 man roster, as they picked him up off waivers recently.

The All-Star cards delivered another probable first this year:
One player, same set, two cards - 
Two teams? Maybe this has happened before, I'm not totally sure. It almost happened twice in this set though:
I can't recall the confusing details about Samardzija being named an All-Star for the NL but then not pitching for the AL after his trade to Oakland, but this card really confuses me. Topps has conditioned me to know that only Closers celebrate an out on their baseball cards. Did Samardzija move to the bullpen out there in the land of Billy Ball? I don't get this card. At least the Torso-only image for Pitchers stays intact, I guess.

We almost need a special set of baseball cards to keep up with the Oakland A's any more. They push all their chips in the pot, get great cards on the turn and the river, but then it turns out they didn't read the flop right in the first place, so they fold. Topps card-back writers will have to be oh so carefully polite covering all those baseball transactions in the next several sets.

Another confusing thing about Topps and which player goes in which Series of cards is their handling of some of the higher caliber Free Agents. During a season, everybody knows who some of the top Free Agents are going to be when the season ends. Except Topps, it seems.

This year's winner of the Shin-Shoo Choo Memorial Most Topps Base Cards award is Brian McCann. Let's review:
And finally, after the season is over, we get an Update card:
Why, Topps, why? Actually, I get why. McCann was a Free Agent that signed with the Yankees after his Series One Braves card was prepared (though a good 9 weeks before it went up for retail sale), so us loyal collectors needed a new card of him with the Yankees. Fair enough.

And I like that the Opening Day set gets a few unique cards because of such transactions of the upper 1/3 of the players in MLB.

So why do the same players then get a new card in Chrome and Update, which is cool … but not all the other players? Particularly in Chrome? Why do so many players get repeat images across multiple products, but then some players get four different cards in these products? I like that, quite a bit actually, even though I don't like the Yankees or Brian McCann. It can't be all that difficult to put different photos on different baseball cards, can it?

It certainly isn't for Shin-Soo Choo cards:
So we have a tie for most Topps cards this year as Choo comes back strong to retain a share of the title again this year. Both of these players have photo variation cards in these sets too, so if you Player Collect McCann or Choo, this was a very good year.

I just can't understand why more of the highly mobile players these days can't get more unique cards like these here. Does Topps think we are all just a bunch of geeks so obsessed with player and/or team idolatry that they don't need to take this approach across all their sets? We'll just dutifully purchase their new cards in multiple copies even though they use the same image? Of course, many collectors will, but then they have to ask themselves - why were less products picked up at Wal-Mart this year? Why does shelf space for Topps Baseball seem to decline slightly all the time at various Big Boxes?

And as usual, mentally pondering fine Topps baseball cards like that fine 2014 Topps Update Shin-Soo Choo card there after a fine Christmas 2014, these baseball cards always leave me with one recurring question - Why?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

One last Hobby Box

So I've been writing some lately about moving on to wiser ways to purchase baseball cards than ripping packs and helping subsidize everyone else's lottery tickets. This is all somewhat hypocritical in theory because I hit a heckuva lottery ticket this spring….and the other day I actually bought a Hobby Box of 2014 Update. I do truly believe this will be my last box of baseball cards for some time however, except for older boxes now marked down far below the original manufacturer's suggested retail price. I have my eye on a few of those.

I bought this box because I wanted the experience of pulling a particular card from it. I didn't just want a certain card, I wanted to be the person that opened the wrapper and found the card in the pack. This hobby box actually pretty much guaranteed me two such cards. But I couldn't get that experience without buying the hobby box; simply buying the cards I want would deprive me of it.

So into the red storm clouds I went...

Let's see what I found
This was the first card that I flipped over to read. I'm like, who is this guy? Why do I not know a player that made it to the All-Star Game?

This is why Update is one of my favorite sets. I follow my team, the Tigers, pretty close. I know what's happening with the other teams in the AL Central fairly well, and have some idea of what goes on with their rosters. I know basically who plays for the teams in the other two AL divisions. But in the National League, I am lost quickly. And this is actually one of many reasons I buy baseball cards in general.

Fortunately, a hobby box will give you most of the 330 cards in the set, and it turns out Tony Watson has another card in the set,
, and this card answered my questions. Tony Watson has been a killer lefty specialist and set-up guy in the Pirates bullpen for the last two years.

So why didn't I know this? Sure relievers can frequently get overlooked by Topps in the 660 card set, and the Update set frequently rectifies this. But why wasn't a guy who threw a 0.88 WHIP in 2013 already honored with a card in Series 1 or 2 this year? That's pretty darn good work on the mound.

I was pretty sure this was the first time I had seen Tony Watson on a Topps baseball card. So why couldn't I be hooked up with the official RC logo saying New Guy, New Guy to catch my attention?

Probably, no, definitely, because of this card:
That's a 2011 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects card that I don't own, but merely downloaded an image of for you.

Though Watson was actually drafted in 2007, Topps didn't issue a Bowman card in any of the 59 different Bowman sets until four years later. By which point, he was already up in The Show, as I believe Bowman Draft cards come out pretty late in the year (after the Draft, duhh, except for this player) … so Topps had to put the RC logo on that card.

Confused yet? I like picking up any player's First Topps Card. But at this point with the RC logo, I expect that to be on their First Topps Card. Is that too much to ask of this crazy system? I guess it is, actually.

Update should be called "the home of the Rookie Card", because it always has the most of the 3 Topps series each year now. And everyone learned from the 2011 Update release not to take these Rookie Cards lightly; that year is pretty loaded with Rizzo, Goldschmidt, Altuve, J.D. Martinez, and Dee Gordon, who all have cards in this year's Update - mostly as All-Stars, and of course some guy named after a fish.

So I was happy to pull this card:
and put it straight into a top-loader. Which will probably be foolish, but don't you wish you had pulled the Mike Trout First Topps Card / official-RC-for-many-collectors, and done so wearing surgical gloves with a 3 screw screw-down holder immediately adjacent to the pack of cards, so you could get the grading companies to give you the first this-one-goes-to-11 card of all time? And I only noticed writing this how similar it is to the Trout RC, hmmmm…....   Would you wish you could have got this version of that card? 
Yes, I was glad to pull that card, and again straight into a top loader it went - something I did with only 5 cards in this Hobby Box, but not this one:
Sweet, a limited /# card of a Rookie of the Year, right? No, that is just his "RD" card, for Rookie Debut. Not toploader-worthy, though it will be headed off to COMC for, I'm thinking, eventually a buck-fiddy in credit for other cards I want. I always like cards shot at home for the Mets, with that strong orange line in the background, and I'm usually OK with seeing the corporate logos that have always been a part of the game of baseball, but I'm just plain not fond of seeing an ad for StubHub. I guess StubHub democratizes the selling of extra event tickets, but I don't like the way that trends ticket prices up usually, and not all that often down. The player salaries have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is partially ticket prices that are high on the face value printed on the ticket. I don't need my baseball cards to remind me of all that.

I'm of mixed thoughts on Rookie Debut cards. I guess if a kid's favorite player is one of the hot rookies in a given season, they are a pretty cool bonus. I haven't had an exciting Rookie to cheer for on the Tigers in quite some time, so I'm not that familiar with such a feeling.

I did though find a Rookie Debut card I really liked:
And yes, that is a picture from that exact game at Yankee Stadium. Betts seems to have a look in his eye acknowledging it all - playing your first Major League game in an away game in one of the biggest rivalry series in the whole sport. Topps captures it perfectly by letting Yankee Stadium be an element of the card, rather than just zooming out all the baseball context as they are so fond of doing lately.

One other Rookie Debut card that didn't make me stare in awe, but laugh instead, was this one:
Is that a giant can of Pirate Beer in the background? I sooooo would buy a sixer or several of that. Plus it looks like those fans are really having a good time. Maybe these Rookie Debut cards aren't so bad after all; I think I'll take a look at them all together sometime.

Overall though, I hope Topps keeps the RD cards fun in some way, and the RC cards as classical as possible, like this one:
I think I'll let that one anchor the Red Sox slot on my should patch page for a while, even with the repeat image. That makes me wonder why Topps doesn't use the left shoulder patch iconography for other teams, like Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, but I'll look into all the new Patch Cards in this set another night, or dawn, the way these posts tend to go. And what's up with the sliced-off thumb intruding into the frame, again? Craftsmanship slips some, lately, I think.

Now another favorite part of Update is getting new cards for your favorite team, and Topps didn't disappoint here. I pulled these three cards from a pack sequentially:
So my Tigers jones was being met. The card I was really looking for was this one though:

The waiver-wire pick-up of the year didn't turn into the baseball card of the year. A nice enough card, but for a rare change I was actually looking forward to the generally over-used slugger image for the surprise slugger from the scrap heap. Topps also took it easy on the Astros on the back, not mentioning that the Tigers picked up a player who finished fifth in the American League in slugging percentage (SLG), or would have qualified for that on the official top ten lists with just a few more At Bats…anyways the Tigers signed him FOR FREE as the Astros completely released him and got nothing for all that 2014 production he gave the Tigers. The card back also didn't mention Martinez' mysterious Hitting Coach that helped him with this transformation that hasn't been named publicly and may be some HOF-caliber veteran. I hope that comes out some day.

Topps did write up a fun card back on another Tigers card in this set:
I didn't know any of that and thought it was pretty cool. Usually the first player since…. stories are totally lame. A nice memento of a Rookie campaign with the Tigers (the front of this one is very sleepy, and I can't afford sleepy cards right now), but a memento is all it is as Suarez was traded to the Reds recently.

The Update set grew out of the Traded sets of course, and one thing I like about is checking in on former Tigers, especially the back-up type players that can only be found in Update, like this perennial member of the checklist:
When I wrote a letter to Topps this summer I suggested in the future they try nicknames on the variation cards to spice things up a bit; Laird is known as "G-Money" in the clubhouse for some reason. We'll see.

One thing I'm not sure I'll see again is a Ramon Santiago baseball card:
I'll always imagine that this shows the Walk-Off Grand Slam he hit in September, though this card looks to have been shot in St. Louis. I hope he can sign somewhere for another year on the bench, but in the Show.

Another ex-Tiger Free Agent, though more likely to be signed somewhere, is playoff slugger Delmon Young. I'm not a fan, but I liked his card-back this fall:
I like Topps' wry observation about the ball clubs sometimes. Not signing a consistent DH couldn't have have helped the O's tough run in the AL East for quite awhile now. It was nice to see the Orioles have a strong year finally, even though they broomed the Tiger's bullpen out of existence, hopefully. If you read card backs, you'll find such nuggets of insight here and there:
How did that work out for Seattle? Not too good. And now we find Maurer in the Update set, not where you expect to see a starting pitcher. The Topps Prophets may have known something here though, as Maurer could be on his way to success via joining the bullpen - and probably the Update checklist again.

Sometimes the card-back writers just speak baseball nonsense, trying to fill out the space on the card without actually commenting on anything:
The best part of that sort-of-an-oxymoron-sort-of-political-style-doublespeak is the recent trade of Cespedes making the whole mess even more redundant, or something. Really a hard sentence to describe, actually.

But I'm getting sleepy…that's not why I flip through stacks of baseball cards all the time. Let's see the front of a card again:
And this is an again as I've posted this card before, though I neglected to check the back aside from noting it was a checklist card that didn't explain when Pujols hit HR #500. It turns out that Topps honors this feat by making this card #1 in the set, or #US1 in their silly Update numbering system, but this also is a card from this year. It does say on the back "2014 Baseball Highlight", though strangely, it is a checklist for cards 137-204 - the checklist card is not part of the checklist it lists on the card.

Topps found 2 more 2014 Baseball Highlights:

But then they just kind of throw in the towel and declare this a highlight:
And this:
More Rookie Debut cards, sort of. With just a checklist on the back, how would you like to plunk down your $1.99 for your one pack of baseball cards for the week and pull the hot rookie … checklist?

Much like last year with the Puig cards, what Topps is really checklist-padding with here is the exciting new foreign players, who are now always the most exciting cards in a Topps set — because they haven't usually been in a Bowman set as teenagers like all the other players in MLB. So the new foreign player cards are some of the only cards that have a strong market, because such a vast majority of collectors only want cards that are worth money, and the most valuable card is the first card, something I have never really, truly, understood at all. The design, imagery, tradition, etc., come in a distant second, as I always end up writing myself back into that corner when pondering a new pile of baseball cards.

Fortunately, about the time I was discovering via these checklist cards that I still hadn't found the card in this set everyone is looking for, the DeGrom rookie or especially the image variation, or especially especially the /5 image variation on-card auto that sells for $500+ … well, I found one of the cards I was looking for at least.

When I first saw the edge of it approaching in the little stack of cards from a pack, I thought it might even meet one of my goals for these goal-of-purchasing-this-box cards - being a card I had previously pulled in my life:
As the '75 Record Breaker appeared I thought I was going to get another copy of the Rennie Stennet 7-hits-in-9-innings card, one of my favorites as a kid.

Instead I got this epic card, that I never did pull as a kid. I didn't even ever see this card till I started reading baseball card blogs, actually. And now I own my own copy.

I put this card into a top-loader because it is in amazing condition. I'm strongly considering having it graded (I have a bunch of Mike Trout rookies to send in - yes, the Topps ones), just to complete this project and see what grade a card can get after having been sent through the Topps distribution system twice already.

And what a card this is. I don't normally like a card that doesn't show a player's face, but for such a great action shot of such a great record (the back lists each pitcher Lopes stole one of the 38 bases off of - how cool is that?), well I'm OK with this one.

I have several dozen more cards from '14 Update scanned for you, but right now I have to put on my Santa Claus outfit and go wrap some Christmas presents, so I'll have to share those with you another time.

As for my presents? Well, I told you there would be two of these cards in this box, and Topps already gave me one, with no disappointment. The other one, maybe I'll have to unwrap on Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas everyone!