Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bad news in the Base Set

Hello there, nice to 'see' you. I am fine and still collecting baseball cards. Not much actual news for me; it is still hard to keep up with cards and particularly, blogging, while I travel around for Forestry work all the time. But I figured right now at another one of the very peaks of Aaron Judge mania would be a good time to check in with y'all.

I am, however, pretty disappointed with some new baseball cards I just purchased.

Ever since the 1960 Topps Baseball card set, Topps has seemed very proud of their "All-Star Rookie" teams, originally "selected by the youth of America." I don't have a 1960 Topps All-Star Rookie Cup card to show you unfortunately, though I hope to some day as I collect such cards. But I was happy to find this in a pack of cards I purchased in 2008:


Which is a great representation of the 1960 cards, issued as an insert set in 2008, and one of the rare insert sets I will be collecting to completion. There were 50 years to celebrate in 2008 because the 1960 cards actually honor the performance of the Rookies in the 1959 season. This can always cause a little confusion when discussing Topps All-Star Rookies.

They even used the Rookie Cup to run a contest that year:



I have always enjoyed collecting these cards. Usually falling as a player's second card in the "flagship" Topps set, they aren't expensive in this Rookie Card driven Hobby. So I collect them a bit randomly; I found this one in a re-pack product at the $1 store just a few months ago -


Eventually, I hope to assemble the whole "team" for each year, like this:


(with apologies to Jose Iglesias and Wil Myers, as 11 cards don't fit; a bit of a vexing problem for storing these cards)

There have been gaps in the history of placing the Cup on the cards over the years, but if I recall my web references read just a few minutes ago, it has been a constant on the cards since 1987.

This year started off the same, with 2 cards featuring the Cup on the very first 'page' of Series One (Corey Seager and Gary Sanchez), and also one on the last page -


But after the Series One release, things started to change:


At first one might think this was a conscious decision, to just use the Rookie Cup in the regular set, the "Flagship" (I am not a big fan of that term). But that wouldn't make a lot of sense, to remove the Cup from a cheap set still theoretically aimed at "the youth of America." Normally, the Cup is part of Opening Day, and other products using the base cards, like this one - 


(From the 2016 "Holiday Set")

I like these 'double dip' cards for a player that was called up and played like gangbusters before Topps could even issue an RC logo card - probably another new small specialty collection I will chase and 'binder up' together. I don't think there are very many such cards.

The Opening Day set of course gives you a 'sneak peak' at the cards still to appear in Series 2. Sometimes these are unique cards with images all of their own; the Gary Sanchez Rookie in 2016 is a good example of one that may become slightly sought after, as it was his first true pack-issued RC I believe, with an image that varies from his Series 2 card (though only in the zoom/crop). Generally however Opening Day cards are almost completely ignored by $$$-obsessed collectors.

Still, it is nice to get an early look at all the stars of the game, during Spring Training, 3 months before Series 2 is released, like this very exciting young player:


And this is where I believe a problem crept into the production of my brand new Topps 2017 Series 2 Baseball Cards:


Because back in January or so, the full 2016 Topps MLB All-Star Rookie Team was announced as:

C – Gary Sanchez NYY
1B – Tommy Joseph PHI
2B – Ryan Schimpf SDP
3B – Alex Bregman HOU
SS – Corey Seager LAD
OF – Trea Turner WAS
OF – Nomar Mazara TEX
OF – Tyler Naquin CLE
LHP – Julio Urias LAD
RHP – Kenta Maeda LAD
RP – Seung Hwan Oh STL

And now we are left with a 2017 Topps Baseball Card team of just 5 of the 11 All-Star Rookies, in terms of being the oh-so-desirable "on card".

In the grand scheme of things, this is only a minor complaint of course. But then anything about baseball cards is basically completely unimportant, and a big reason I had to suspend blogging about baseball cards, temporarily.

And there will always be errors in the production of a set of over 1,000 cards now, across Series 1, Series 2, and Update, like this card:
Aviles was traded, at a level just barely above a DFA transaction, to the Braves last --- August! 2016! On the back of this card it says "ACQ: TRADE WITH TIGERS 8-16-16" - quite a neat trick, acquiring a player by trading with yourself. I know Topps never pays much attention to the Detroit Tigers and I really wish they would give us some new Alan Trammell or Kirk Gibson cards in the inserts and subsets instead of yet another inevitable round of Kaline/Verlander/Cabrera. Though it is not really Topps' fault that few of the Tigers' personnel decisions have been working out lately and no one really wants cards of scrubs/commons aging out of the game. Like Mike Aviles.

Such small errors are to be expected I guess, and the New York Mets will always get more Topps Love than any other team too, most likely.

Right now though, Topps is making a lot of money. They have finally, and not entirely unpredictably, moved into the memorabilia market as direct sellers of individual cards, rather than just issuing them as parts of cases and boxes. Selling autographed, limited edition Topps Now cards directly to collectors has got to be extremely profitable. And I am very happy for Topps, because what is good for Topps is good for me and my collections of those cheap "low end" baseball cards most collectors completely ignore. 

And this is also a time when a base card produced in, who knows, an edition of a few 100,000 or more, issued just five months ago, can sell for $120 (2017 Aaron Judge Series One Rookie, graded to PSA 10 - sold last night after the 'Derby). 

So baseball cards are still fun for the people who derive their enjoyment from buying a card for 25 cents and watching it grow in value. I am also very happy for those types of collectors, because again what is good for people who collect 'financially', let's say, is also good for me.

I just hope with all this money being made, the ultimate cost of the "worthless" cards I actually keep and enjoy can remain low. I doubt there will be very much 2017 product on the discount shelf next year.

And more importantly, that certain key details can be covered correctly. Perhaps there is still time to do so in the Update set, which should have plenty of room amidst all the padding in that product.

It's a small world, after all, and I can continue to daydream that some of the small things can still be delivered, for the small collectors, like me.



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?