Monday, July 27, 2020

All New Series!

This is definitely a good year to be absorbing some brand new baseball cards. I have been buying some on and off this year, but lost the enthusiasm for cards when it was uncertain if we would even have a baseball season.

That has worked itself out, for now, so I have been quite enjoying listening to some live baseball, that actually "counts," and ripping some packs.

The other day I lucked into finding Series Two on my local shelf, when it had only been there for a few minutes, I think. The MJ Holdings rep was still there setting out new cards when I walked up to the section. Otherwise, I kind of doubt I would have been able to see this card as my First Card in this year's Series Two:
That's the Meijer's exclusive purple parallel, from the 'Big Box' chain that conveniently built a store in my hometown a few years ago now. I quite like these parallels this year; I guess 1/4 of a colorful frame is better than no frame at all. And I like the tint and pattern to the special 'parallel' section of the card - bright. I like nice bright, colorful baseball cards.

But overall, this continuing 'full bleed' era in the Topps Baseball set is wearing me down and these cards in particular are bleeding into my memories of the 2017 set. Oh how grey life can be sometimes - I don't want grey on my baseball cards, outside of the traditional road grey uniforms on the players. I kind of doubt I want a binder full of a set of these, so I am looking at buying a Complete Set / Factory Set, whenever those actually appear this year, if the ravenous 'retail flippers' happen to leave one on a store shelf for me to buy, complete with my 1-in-ten-thousand-comes-for-the-no-name-cards-inside chance at some special Chromed /13 version of yet another Luis Robert Rookie Card sure to be worth a million dollars, some day. Could become an ongoing dilemma, possibly.

But that's a bit of a cheat for a 'First Card', so let's see what was inside the pack that came inside a blister pack with that purple card.
Sweet! I got that New Guy that hit all those Home Runs for the Mets last year. I mean, that has to be good, even though I already have like 3-4 cards of him from last year and this year that look just like this one. 

Oh, wait? Wasn't that guy on the cover of Series One packs? How could he be my First Card in Series Two, too? I guess I will have to read these action image baseball cards a little more closely.

Oh, well, I always manage to find things I like in a brand new series of Topps Baseball cards, like a cool blue glove:

The Topps gaze does seem to like Walker Buehler, regardless of glove. Spiffy gloves do always jump out at me, and perhaps they look even better on a Night Card:
That card supplies a good trivia question to maybe win a bar bet, if we can ever go back in bars. First Elvis to play for an expansion team? Nope. That might depend on how you define 'expansion' perhaps. No, sometimes there is nothing quite like discovering new young baseball players, via baseball cards, to make a baseball fan feel a little old sometimes. Elvis Luciano is the first player to appear in Major League Baseball that was born in the 21st Century - 2-15-00, as Topps kindly informs us on the back of this card. Thanks, Topps, thanks. Nice card though.

I also like special hats:
That's the Cardinals' special Home Sunday cap with the single Redbird on it. I like seeing it on Cards' cards; this isn't even the first Wainwright card to feature it. And those cool socks, yeah, I like those too:
Actually what I like best about that card is not the 2nd example of the snazzy socks, but the way we can see Dexter's eyes focused on the incoming fly ball. That crisp detail, along with being able to see a complete baseball player, In Action, is quite probably made possible by the nameplate being vertical on the side there. That is to this design's credit; now just imagine this card without so much grey space and also with the interlocking STL logo being something other than white-on-grey, like, say, white-on-red, as on their regular everyday caps.

I do like captured motion on baseball cards though, and as with the Luciano card, and also that Fowler card, a player shown with a foot off the ground always supplies a great sense of watching live Baseball:
I have also always liked how a seating rail in the stands can really positively contribute to the overall set of lines in a baseball card image, well, sometimes, at least:
Cards like that one have been amusing me for several years now. By 'like that one' I mean a Dodgers RC issue. Series One had 2 such cards lighting up the $ signs in the eyes of the purchasers of the lottery tickets, err, the packs of baseball cards. Hey, look, here comes another one:
I dunno, not sure 'Garlick' is the best baseball name I have ever come across. I wonder what his Player's Weekend Nickname card will reveal, some day? If he actually appears on such a card some day. The Dodgers line-up has been so stacked for so long now, I sometimes have to wonder what is the point of Topps sending me so many Dodgers rookie cards, series after series.

At least Dodgers cards always have that classic red white & blue baseball look, so those 2 cards will look presentable in the RC binder at least, even if I never hear of these 2 players ever again. I just wish the high draft picks my team makes could hit bushels of Home Runs in the Minors the way obscure Dodgers draft picks can.

Oh well, sometimes I do get a second chance to see anonymous RC players again in a subsequent series, like this player:
Sadly, Isiah is now down to just 2 positions as assigned by Topps there in the really small type, down one from the 3B/2B/C combo on his RC. I know it is wrong to make fun of someone's last name, but I like finding one of Kiner-Falefa's cards in packs, they always make me hungry and since I live so very very far from a working Middle Eastern restaurant, they also are always a tiny bit of motivation to just get un-lazy and make my own darn falafel, some day.

Now that card has a brand new feature down there in the corner, though it is hard to notice amidst all the colorful Catcher gear - an "Inaugural Season" logo for the Rangers' new stadium. I often feel for the Rangers fans, more particularly their baseball card collecting fans, as Brooklyn HQ frequently does an even worse job covering them than they do with my favorite team in Detroit. They both are regular contenders to be card #666 (though given to Colorado this year), and of course Topps completely punted the effort when they issued Series 1 with just one Texas Rangers card. Which, in classic Topps fashion, didn't have this special logo. I just hope they got it right on the blister pack issued Team Set cards, perhaps, the ones they would possibly sell in the spiffy new stadium....oh, wait. 2020 strikes again, sorry Texas. I did hear some interesting talk, now that live baseball analysis has returned, about the dimensions of that new park and how they favor the Pitchers now, rather than the Hitters, which will be quite a change in Arlington. On a team largely guided by Nolan Ryan, hmm, how could that happen?

That somewhat not-out-of-baseball-card-history - logo? stamp? icon? is not so noticeable on that particular card, down there in the right-hand corner. This year's design lifts the eyes up, and away from the bottom corner, as on this card:
With even the Cardinals on the uniform contributing to the great flow of lines in this image, making you ponder what will happen with that baseball your eyes end up on, the now famous RC logo becomes a bit lost all the way down there in the corner. This card is a good example of how captivating the baseball can be on a baseball card - it includes that special Sunday hat and a colorful glove, too, but all I can see when I look at this card is a great example of a Pitcher's grip on the baseball.

Overall that corner logo now is making me wonder what happens on a Rangers' RC, in Series Two at least. I guess I will have to rip some more packs to find out, perhaps.

One long-standing Series Two tradition returns, for players who changed teams but were not included in Series One:
The classic Road Grey PhotoShop job. 

Sometimes that is a bit less noticeable somehow -
- but overall I will always wish Topps would spring for a brand new photo taken in Spring Training for this recurring Topps Baseball checklist situation.

With the grey design this year, 'alternate' uniforms really improve a given single baseball card, like this one:
Romo always seems to get good cards, and he does seem excited to be spiffed out in Minnesota's Road Alternate duds. The Twins also have a Home Alternate uni -
I like that yellow bat knob there, will be watching to see one of those again on a card.

Ultimately though what I hope to find when ripping some packs of cards, finally listening to live Major League Baseball, is cards of my favorite team:
That's probably another PhotoShop job; recall the t-shirt sleeves on those last 2 cards. Schoop is well into a journey-ing type career now, but he did get the Tigers first hit of the season the other day and had a pretty good opening series overall.

My next Tigers card was a bit surprising -
- but only in terms of thinking like it was 2018, when Reyes was a Rule 5 pick who made it all the way through his first season in Detroit to 'stick' on the roster permanently. He really blossomed in 2019 and this pick proved to be shrewd indeed, as did this particular 'pull' from a pack of baseball cards, as Reyes just hit a home run while I was gazing upon his nifty horizontal card here.

5 packs, 3 Tigers:
That's the Tigers new closer, who also had a great opening series with 2 Saves already. This card, a bit less than the previous card, illustrates a little of what could have been on this design as you can partially see that the olde English "D" is blue on the uniform, and white on the cap. Topps always seems to favor the cap logo, even when the uni logo would make for a more colorful card.

I also like pulling cards of the opposing team while I am absorbing Major League action, and Topps came through for me with the Reds' Opening Day starter:
That's the "Turkey Red" insert, which appear one / pack, the now 16 card loose single pack, to be specific. Last year each loose pack held a "Superstars of Baseball" insert, which did not appear in other packaging configurations. Given how collation works in Topps products, and this style of unique inserts in the loose packs, they are becoming my preferred format to pick up a few new baseball cards. Especially when I can still get the Meijers blister packs with the purple cards.

I think Sonny Gray looks good in his new uniform; I never thought the pinstripes suited him, in several ways. At 5'10" he is not a typical starting Pitcher, and for whatever reason I always think the shorter players look smaller yet in a pinstripe uniform. The deal that brought him to Cincinnati was convoluted to say the least and prospect results on a couple other teams remain to be seen, but I think overall Cincy pushing some chips in to the center of the table with the Gray deal will make the NL Central that much more interesting the next few years.

These Turkey Red cards are starting to grow on me:
Even though they are a grey border insert in a grey set of baseball cards, the always colorful backgrounds and that crisp faux-inset image border just make these cards:

I am fairly sure I have seen this image of Lou Gehrig on a baseball card before, though I don't specifically collect his new issue cards. But I am also quite certain the image has never been melded with an artsy sunset background like that. Thus, I am starting to think a set of these classic cards of classic players might look pretty nice on a binder page:
Oh, wait. All-time Hall of Famers, current stars, & ... Rookies I've never heard of. So much for a desire to complete that set; probably these Turkey Red inserts are destined for Nifty Nine(s) status in my collection. Especially since I have more than enough collecting efforts under way to absorb too much of my scarce extra dollars, anyway.

So though each loose pack I might buy will deliver me another Turkey Red insert card, the packs do also contain examples of the other inserts in Series Two, like this one:

Can't go wrong with a new Willie McCovey card and as a sucker for 70s 'flair', I think I will be looking into these a bit more. And maybe these, too:
I like/don't like how that particular card recalls the randomly sterile design efforts on Topps baseball cards in the 2010s - hexagons? Really? But I collected a lot of baseball cards in the 2010s and enjoyed following the game of baseball a bit more closely than usual all through that decade, so I look forward to checking out more of this insert checklist.

A Topps Baseball set and summer time often mean: a contest card -
And that is a pretty darn good baseball card in it's own right, right there. I barely have time to blog with y'all so I doubt I will be trying out the Home Run Challenge any time soon, or really, ever. But at least I will enjoy seeing the cards for it this year, as it is starting to look like a few more packs of this stuff will fall in the grocery cart again, presuming I have some luck with the 2020 retail baseball card challenge, which is on a whole 'nother level from previous years and years of collecting baseball cards.

Sometimes I wonder if my decision to like/not like an insert set might depend on the player I first see on one. That certainly didn't hurt with that cool Willie McCovey card I pulled. On this one -
- that's not the issue as I like Pedro Martinez well enough, particularly these days when I am randomly fortunate enough to catch some of his commentary on TV. But overall I am not always that interested in WAR stats, so I doubt I will be keeping any more of these. I prefer straight stats to 'new formula' stats, and with a fair bit of irony, this card did pleasingly tell me that Pedro's season in the year 2000, which generated the 11.7 WAR being celebrated here, also featured a 0.737 WHIP stat, which is the All-Time Record.

& that's why I keep buying baseball cards. I like pondering WHIP on the backs of cards, a regular stat feature of Topps Baseball cards now, but I was unfamiliar with that minor tidbit of baseball info.

I will leave you with a final 'insert' - one that is generally expected to be found when one buys packs of Topps Baseball cards - the Topps Gold. This one doesn't excite me; "Gold" can go a lot of ways on these cards depending on design, and just how the "Gold" is formulated. On this example here, I am having a hard time not thinking of it as a Padres card. The absurdly white edges of the should-be-in-shadow Rays logo 'shopped onto it are quite distracting, and the "Gold" is a bit dark for my tastes:
I picked up 5 packs to open the 2020 season, such as it is; these fall 1:8 packs this year, which is surely a pretty low ratio compared to years past. But that indicates a lot of people are buying Topps Baseball cards these days, and overall, that is a pretty heartening fact to me, in a year when we can use all such heartening things more than ever; most especially these brand new Topps Baseball cards.

Friday, July 24, 2020


2020, what more can be said?

I even ran out of energy to be ripping packs of baseball cards. But occasionally I would still put a pack or three in the basket with the groceries.

Just now I went to the Big Box to stock up on various supplies for Opening Late Afternoon, and finally discovered when the local 'rep' appears in my town to stock the crucial baseball card section: Friday afternoon, 2 to 5 usually, he says. And there was the first appearance of Series Two in my little ole home-town, some 3 weeks after averyone else. 2020, what can be said about that?

I hope you all have been bloggling away as much as possible. My 2020 has been the same as most any year; the opening of baseball season is always a very busy, 25/8 type schedule for me, which rolls right on into summer. I do have a little less time-sensitive work right now, so I can hang out with you fine individuals for a few weeks. 

Looking forward to it, see you soon!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Backs in the day

Well I have certainly been looking forward to ripping this particular 'pack' of cards, that is for sure.

1971 marked a bit of a turning point for baseball cards; most any one interested enough in baseball cards to be reading an obscure baseball card blog already knows all that. The Munson card, etc., etc.

This then begged a certain question - where would Topps put the 'historically correct' cards in the Heritage version of the set? Clearly there would be a take on the Munson card; the Lowell Palmer / Pat Neshek card in 1970 / 2019 Heritage made that plain enough.

But for some time now, Topps has been adding the "value" that the Lottery Ticket Scratchers, err, "collectors" demand in their boxes of baseball cards by including a certain totally a-historical card in Heritage sets: the super short printed / photo variation "Action" cards.

Would the historical styled cards just be issued as deliberately super short printed cards? Or might they be just issued as part of the 100 card "short print" portion of the checklist, which no longer has any correlation to the issue sequence &/or basic quantity made of the historical sets, only some of which had exceptionally scarce cards usually referred to as "high numbers."

So....let's rip the pack.

First card, best card? Well, this was the first bit of baseball card I could see as I opened the pack. Given the current news in MLB, I thought it was pretty cool to see this particular card, first, sorta. And this was quite surprising to me, because although I own very few 1971 Topps Baseball cards, the relatively sparse info backs weren't ones that particularly made me think - yeah, I'm gonna buy some 2020 Heritage and read all those dark card backs.

And what's that I see down in the left corner? A fleck of white? My uber-valuable baseball card is already ruint, before I even get to take it to the bank. Thanks, Topps.

This particular card back is a bit of a classic effort by Topps - talk up something that can be seen in a picture of a baseball player, and then no way, no how, use such a picture on a baseball picture card that might match the text. Oh, well.

But this was a nice surprise, and an initial answer to my key question: this certainly appears to be a picture from a Major League Baseball game. You won't see a back wall like that on a spring training field. There is no way to be sure on all that, but this is a nice portrait card that is probably also a live action shot, and this is not from the Short Print portion of the checklist, nor is this a special value added 'Action' card; those have a printed text notation of that word right on the back of the card now. Topps 1, Card Cynic 0.

But let's move on to the card that was on the 'top' of the stack of baseball cards, i.e. the one facing right-side up:

These particular cards make me so mad I want to fling them away from me like a frisbee, which is why I will hold that Fiers card in my thoughts of First Card in this product. I think we are up to about 5 years of seeing Red Sox players standing on this exact same spot on so many of their baseball cards. We all know that 1960s sets, and large portions of 1970s sets, were created with photos taken at Spring Training. But those original sets didn't feature entire teams of players all standing on the same spot to have their picture taken, and definitively did not feature that photo composition strategy for years on end. The Red Sox + the bushes has been running for some time now; I actually preferred the run of years when their players stood by a chain link fence, which made for a more menacing card. But some other teams, such as the Tigers, have had repeat backdrops running on for quite a few more years than these (in)famous Red Sox shrubs. And don't even get me started on the summation of the 2019 Eddie Rosario card and the 2020 Eddie Rosario card, which I have seen elsewhere already. Topps 1, Card Cynic -1.

This card creates an instant baseball question: how good will the White Sox be this year? This is what I want from a pack of baseball cards. I particularly like the back of this card:

Now that is how to do a Leaders card. Don't mess around, just give me the top 50 players for that stat. Simple, to the point, very, very informative. I would very much like to see this straight up copied in a Topps Baseball set in the 2020s; Top 10 is nice, but Top 50 is nicer. Topps 2, Card Cynic -1.

You can always tell, in a Topps Baseball set, which teams are down in the cellars of the Leagues. Simply by how many of their cards you pull featuring players you have never heard of. It seems like just yesterday I was adding yet another Chance Cisco card to my pile of "should I save this?" baseball cards. I think, for those Cisco cards, Topps just answered the question for me. Plus, I like a good old fashioned blurry empty seats card, an image that can pretty much only be seen on Topps baseball cards, and is also one that I don't associate with 59 other Orioles Heritage/Archives cards from the last oh so many years. This card also makes me look forward to finding a Giants, O's, Marlins, or Pirates player wearing their Home Alternate uniform. Topps 3, Card Cynic -1.

Meh. But, actually, not really. This card will help me quite a bit in considering the Houston Astros, going forward - none of these players could have been involved in the recent cheating, for one, so they will give me some tiny bit of bright spot to look forward to in Astros box scores. I also had a good friend named Rogelio, once upon a time, though he was from Mexico. That makes me always root for the Mexican players in MLB, so it is a bit of bummer that SeƱor Armenteros there is from Cuba. But I will root for him anyway. Also of note on this card is the home of that imposing looking young third baseman there, but I will leave that for you to discover on the back of your own baseball card. Maybe, he will end up on your team soon enough, considering that a Rookie has little chance of taking a spot from a young almost-MVP, even a young, now hated almost-MVP. Topps 4, Card Cynic -1.

I have pretty much already pulled this card in a previous pack of Topps Baseball cards, and that made me mad.

This is where the laziness of the Topps Photo Day shots really wear out collectors - when you also collect Archives. Which is unfortunate, because players with a big smile always make for good baseball cards, so I like this particular player for that reason and I do want to collect his baseball cards. This particular back drop for Braves cards goes back a solid ten years or so. Topps 4, Card Cynic -3.

Plenty of Giants cards from their "spot." Topps 4, Card Cynic -4. I am going to quit posting these cards. Note that is just a white team name, not a deliberate artificial scarcity value added card, which feature team names printed in silver, for you to chase and give away your money for not much, really.

Now we are starting to cook with some gas. A nice bright live action baseball card, with some really strong lines to the image, too, though only the best we can get for a rare Ball Boy cameo in the ever blurrier 21st century. And my first Tigers, card, sort of, though Cron only has a one year deal with the Tigers, who are fielding 5 such veterans this year all on one year deals, which makes rooting for their results about completely pointless.

On the Cron card I don't quite understand the off-set placement of the facsimile signature; one of the historical-set-mimic-deliberate-errors this year features a poorly placed sig like this one, on the Yordan Alvarez Rookie Cup card. But there is no magic word 'error' in the official spot just above the player picture on the back of the card, so this card is worth essentially 0¢. But, this is the kind of card I was hoping to pull from this pack, and indeed, will be keeping in a binder page prison for all eternity, just to look at some contemporary players on a vintage design.

I will update the score methodology in the pack now - Pose 4, Action 2 (recall Fiers card).

mmmm, so thirsty. I bought this pack of baseball cards instead of a six pack, but I do like King of Beers cards, even though I hardly ever drink that beer, or even buy beer any more, as currently I would have to choose between beer and baseball cards in life due to a # of swings and misses at work, so I am starting to have a love/hate relationship going with this card. But it will have a binder page slot some day too, though not with other 2020 Heritage cards. Pose 4, Action 3.

I think this card is probably a night card. What is also nice about this card is that Allard was traded to Texas last summer. But Topps didn't mess around with simply photoshopping Kolby into a T-for-Texas ball cap and a road grey uni. Or maybe they have updated their PhotoShop license and are now much, much better at such efforts. Still, another type of card I am looking for in my Topps Baseball sets. New team, new uniform (Road Alternate, no less - very nice on vintage designs), new bit of player bio on the back. +1 in the Topps score above. That Greek symbology on the bottom of the card though - what's up with that? Pose 4, Action 4.

I like this posed card quite a bit. A good smile makes a good baseball card. It has a familiar Spring Training vibe to it, but I haven't seen this photo spot 592 times before, neither. And I like those nice perfectly landscaped small trees showing off their Spring colors, too - a perfect card to pull this time of year, writing a blog post and listening to a Spring Training broadcast (I recommend absorbing a bunch of those this week, just in case). I also particularly like that Topps oh so carefully placed the signature reproduction; maybe that is a good sign for other cards in other sets, going forward, as otherwise Topps semi-routinely has players sign their names on cards right over dark uniform, etc., spots in the image, and they didn't exactly ace this detail on that C.J. Cron card. On this card, someone deep in the Topps baseball card mines showed they still care about the final result, on-card. So another +1 for Topps vs. Cynic, though I skipped over 3 other posed cards. Pose 8, Action 4.

Normally, a cap-less baseball card indicates a 1960s Topps Baseball card and they are a bit on the rare side outside of that decade, 'cepting of course their Heritage repros. But also normally, a cap-less baseball card indicates a posed card. Not so here. Also probably a night card - night cards and 1971 Topps Baseball - an interesting combo. I will be watching (my baseball cards).

That particular image of the card amuses me a little; mine is far more well centered but I could not get it to scan straight without the instant cupping of brand new Topps Baseball cards making for crooked scans. Finally I gave up and borrowed someone else's scan from eBay. But that particular copy certainly has more authentic vintage appearance than mine does, though none of my vintage cards have ever curled up and refused to lay flat on a scanner bed the way so many of my brand new baseball cards do lately.

I don't know much about Josh VanMeter, but the Reds are expected to possibly 'make some noise,' as they say, in the NL Central this year, so seeing their new baseball players is why I buy baseball cards. One intriguing little factoid about VanMeter I did just learn is this: he has exactly zero Bowman baseball cards already created. Must be a walk-on. Perhaps, future baseball cards will enlighten me. Pose 8, Action 5.

I am thinking this might be the first baseball card that says "Mad Max" on it, so straight into my little Nifty Nine collection of Max Scherzer cards this will go; and I expect it might stay there over time as though I like Max, I don't really need more than 9 of his nifty baseball cards to keep for all-time.

I am guessing Topps is having one of their mis-adventures with filters here, trying to give a vintage feel for how early 1970s Topps was able to handle cards photographed at night, or something. So perhaps a newer, better, stronger 'Mad Max' card will some day displace this one. I pulled one other NLCS card in this pack and it looks just like this one; I think on balance I would rather just have an un-processed image, whether that matches up to the vintage set or not. Because the image processing is rather obvious, and deliberate here.

But what I really like about this card is once again on the back:

Again I like the simple, old school take on the results of a baseball game, although this almost-complete box score gives the Pitchers exactly bupkis here, outside of their At Bats at least. I was writing about a 2013 Postseason card on the Sea Turtle blog the other day; this vintage Topps approach is far superior. Given how many cards Topps makes these days, what I would like to see in a future Topps Baseball set for a post-season card is simply a nice, detailed box score, as they are created today. There is plenty of room on the back of a 2.5" x 3.5" baseball card for that, particularly with 21st century printing technology and an ability to handle any font at any size. Such an effort _could_ fit, and this card back does have a lot of wasted space. But overall, I will quite a bit look forward to pulling some World Series cards from 2020 Heritage and reading those, rather than the ones I have yet to see in 2020 Series One.

No score update for that card; I pulled 5 cards of the 20 that were either Leaders, multi-Rookies, or PostSeason cards which aren't relative to the pose/action mix. The actual final was Pose 10, Action 5, Tattoos 6 — a bit of a Tattoo hot pack, this one.

And I did not pull any Inserts or Short Prints or Super Short Print "Action" cards - just 20 base cards - when was the last time you purchased a Topps package of some sort and found Zero inserts?

So that basic mix of cards is some pretty good news for me, and I will kind of collect some 2020 Topps Heritage. The basic news on the product remains the same: 400 base cards, 100 short prints. Which is something created by Topps changing to 100 card sheets in about 2015; having 100 short prints probably makes production quite a bit easier than 425 base + 75 sp.

But that makes for one heckuva expensive set of baseball cards, for this decidedly non-professional collector. So I already know I just don't have an option to attempt to collect this entire set, really, given how much it would cost to track down 100 short prints. I would say Heritage is perhaps a "mid-end" baseball card product, rather than a "low end" product which I normally collect due to cost. Though I have always liked 1971 Topps Baseball cards, the actual result of the creation of the 2020 Topps Heritage set finds me just, kind of complacent, I guess.

Ultimately, the repetitive nature of a large portion of the cards kind of helps me out - I don't really need page after page of the same card, over and over again, so I am not particularly disappointed that I can't actually collect this set. But at the same time, the amount of action cards sprinkled through the checklist - (the Munson card is indeed recreated, though I have yet to see who has the Topps Rookie Cup for a Catcher this year) - well, I will have something to look forward to when I casually add a pack of this to my grocery cart over the next year or so. And perhaps as I look to collect a little more carefully in my future, prioritizing cards based on how many binders of baseball cards I really want to own, the crazy nature of 'added value' and manufactured scarcity and the way so many of my fellow hobbyists really collect $$ signs, not baseball cards, well perhaps in Heritage now that works to my advantage. I can take what I need from a few nice memory making cards, and leave the rest. Which should probably work fine for the Psychedelic Tombstones next year, too, particularly as all the live baseball action will be corralled in a subset.

But I only have four years to save up for the Heritage set I really, really want...

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

falling out on the 2nd date

I really liked the brand new Topps Big League in it's Rookie Year, 2018. I never did get much of a chance to show off many favorites from it, but perhaps I will try and work it into the Nifty Nine series as it starts making its way into some binder pages. It is easily my favorite 'grey' set I have ever collected.

This past year, I thought it hit a sophomore slump a fair bit. I am trying hard to quit writing about 2019 as "this year." Maybe the start of some live baseball games in a few more days will help that along.

Actually, I liked most things about 2019 Big League. The Nickname / Player's Weekend cards returned, but I am working on that set and will throw those up on a brag blog post, someday.

The design was basically nice too. I like diagonals on cards; 2020 will be a good year for me re-living all those 1985 Topps cards. I don't quite get the need for that extra little triangle of photograph, or the fairly superfluous section/row/seat ticket stub conceit. We use barcodes on our 'phones' to get in the big league game these days, Topps.

I liked the wood grain framing quite a bit - really, I wished there was a little bit more space to show it off on the front. On the back, it made for one of the purdiest card backs I have seen in quite a while:

Here the lumber really looks just exactly perfect, and the random Did You Know? feature returned. Those mostly useless random little factoids appear at the price of Full Stats, but how many people just collect one small set of baseball cards these days? Full Stats appear on plenty of other cards, and though if I were in charge, the regulation Topps Baseball set would have them every year, as they do re-appear in 2020 Series One. But how else could Bo Diddley, Aristotle, and Twilight movies make it on to the back of a baseball card?

Another nice feature on the back is the nifty team logo/graphic you just kind of expect to see on a baseball card. But seeing it all nice and crisp on the back informs probably the biggest reason I'm not collecting this release hardly at all:

After who knows how many years, we finally get a pennant on a baseball card again, but I don't like it. Too dark. That simple. Ironically, as I move now into a stack of cards from this set I do like, the pennant on that one is too 'royal' blue - dark; the portion of the pennant around the logo has to be purposely lightened to make the logo more visible, a process which fails for many other teams.  And the just exactly perfect light and shading, as if the sun was shining on the pennant and then casting a shadow on the baseball player photo below - overkill. Just ditch all that dark on baseball card design; leave that to the cards shot on a twi-night double header, or at night - and then they look real, real, nice with some nice bright baseball card graphics, like this card could have, without that odd area of dark graphics down in the low left corner dragging everything else into it's darkness.

Salvy's batting helmet there isn't that dark. Big league teams don't use dark shaded colors all that much in uniform and logo choices; Milwaukee just ditched their dark navy blue uniforms for this year for example. I think only Minnesota and San Diego persist with the navy these days, and maybe road alternates for the Yankees.

Ahh, well, I will try to stick to what I did like for the most part. I like bubble gum cards:

Those last 2 cards were the 'Gold' parallel. I like them well enough, though I wish I could pull only the Golds for the cards I like, or only the base version. Having to mix them together later will make me crabby.
I especially like "In Action" bubble gum cards. 

Now if only this pack of baseball cards had bubble gum in it, too — considering the price point, and some of the design themes of the inserts, and even some of the photo choices, like these bubble gum cards (2018 had several as well, but I can't recall any in S1/S2 for a couple years now), well in theory this set is aimed at kids. So it would seem to be the perfect place for Topps to return to issuing bubble gum with their baseball cards. Instead in the 2020 set, some packaging format will come with an MLB toy of some sort. I have been avoiding looking at the details - so ripping that first pack this summer will be so much more enjoyable.

One checklist feature Big League has that has been missing from Topps Baseball for many years now are Leaders cards:
After lo these many years, Joey Votto finally got his due in the 2018 set, though I wasn't able to pull that card this year. Big League really likes the Leader, err, Stat Kings, cards, and issues many for categories never seen in the history of baseball cards, like that one.

But I like some of the throwback Stat Kings cards, for categories that have existed on Leader cards in previous decades, but not consistently:
Of course, only us old-timers would even know what trying to use the word "Fireman" about this card would mean; let's not confuse the 21st Century kids too much now. But when I was a kid, I always looked forward to pulling this card -
Though any more in MLB 'action', the idea of a Stolen Base might start to confuse the kids. And how does Trea Turner steal a base with a bat in his hand? Is the game turning violent now?

Leader cards are a subset of course, and a traditional one. 

I mentioned the inserts - me likey, mostly, this year:

These somehow again make me want to chew some bubble gum, perhaps because I'm just barely smart enough to stay away from the cotton candy level of sugary stuff these days. But I like the simplistic stuff, sometimes; on that Trout card I like the Catcher's mitt now captured in a graphic bubble. I don't need 25x copies of simple, so when this little pile of cards reaches 9, that will be nifty.

I will finish that one out, however. Perhaps more for the photo effect laying over the outfield wall advertising? I like these kinds of cards mixed into my base sets, but I like them here, all gathered together in one place, too. 

In general, the photo selection in Big League is not all that different from the Topps Baseball set each year, and that's OK. Pictures of baseball players playing baseball are why I buy baseball cards. Big League does have one big advantage in that approach, seen on this card:
What I mean here is something that flows from Big League's mid-summer release date - the players who changed teams since the previous season now appear in their new duds, no Photoshopping required. Though of course fancy software was needed to first make a grey pennant so that it could then be artsy-fartsied into making it look like a fluttering pennant and have differing levels of shade and sunshine on it. And then somehow the team with the darkest secondary team color - black - now has the lightest of all the pennants in the set; go figure. A straight black pennant with the Sox logo would look far more striking, especially with the nice colorful Sox Throwback uniform on this card.

And I always like a nice Throwback card, like this one:

Which does make me look forward to seeing some video from Maryville here in a week or so. Let's hope 2020 Big League realizes how just exactly perfect the logo there on Chacin's cap really is and skips the busybody approach to it taken by 2020 Series One.

The Chacin photograph there was probably created at home in Miller Park; the bright powder blue & yellow popping out all over the card probably save it from my other more-than-just-nagging problem with this set - washed out photos:

That one has a good chance to have originated in a photo in Miller Park too (Yadi is wearing his road greys under the catcher gear), on a day when the roof was closed perhaps. 
(another Miller Park card)

I'm not sure what got into the baseball card creation system at Topps in 2019, but it sure seemed to churn out too high a % of these odd washed out baseball cards, sometimes even on the nice sunny baseball day cards.

Once more, another oh well - too many of those as you paw through a pack of baseball cards and you will look at all the other options on the baseball card shelf the next time you are standing in front of it. I do look forward to seeing Big League on the shelf again 4-5 months from now; I think it has a higher chance than most sets of including a playful card, like this one:

Which unfortunately is not my card, but considering the talk of MLB as Spring Training begins, I thought you might enjoy knowing it is in the set. I got a kick out of seeing in in some listings the other day, but am not that invested in the whole affair generating all the buzz. But if I had pulled that card, I would be keeping one.

I did keep this card, nearly 45 years after I first pulled a card featuring this All-Time Great from a pack -

Perhaps Hammerin' Hank has appeared on other cards that honor the recipient of the award named after him; I'm not sure. But to see him just on a base card rather than some fancy insert, etc., is just a nice touch in this set.

I just never know, opening a pack of baseball cards, what random live action baseball photo will translate into a keeper card for me, like this base-running card:

A more well known baseball card trope is becoming a pretty rare thing in MLB these days, but Big League almost seems to sometimes have a theme of keeping tradition alive -
Or even purposely trying to illustrate technique for it's (theoretical) young audience:

Here at the end of my little off-season resolution of what to do with a stack of cards from 2 blasters of 2019 Big League, I had less cards I really wanted to keep than I did with 2018 Big League. Probably, I will just make a final cut of 9 from the cards seen in this post, 9 'Blast Off' cards, and fill out the Wall Climbers set and probably just the nine niftiest Nicknames cards. 

One card though, will stay with me well into my twilight years, probably, as it is probably the greatest 'cooler dump' card I have ever picked up, though that little trope/sub-genre needs a much better name than that. I haven't found a 'Stadium Lights' card in quite a while now. It also somehow gives me nice warm fuzzy memories of Flaming Lips concerts, too, and some boring day late in the 2020s when blogs filled with all those wordy words are just another what-were-those-geezers-thinking idea like stealing a base or bunting the baseball, I think I will show off this card once again as my

2019 Psychedelic Card of the Year