Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's that One Day

The day of the new Baseball Cards!

Not just any Baseball Cards. The Topps Baseball Cards. Not the Bowman baseball cards. Not some other gimmicky set of baseball cards. Topps Baseball Cards.

Oh…and…Hello there. Yes, I've missed y'all. I'm missing the game of baseball. I miss the baseball card blogs. I miss blogging. And mostly I miss my baseball cards.

I do have some cards with me. But I'll just say that camping and baseball cards don't mix. So though I have had desire to open the road case of cards I have with me, I haven't wanted to do that while out-of-doors. Mostly I have some cards with me that will become the basis of a new COMC account, when I can finally assemble them into a single box for shipping.

Maybe tomorrow finally….thanks to another round of the Polar Vertex vortex, I am safely ensconced in a hotel room for a couple nights….so I can visit with you fine folks. But if you are reading/downloading this post at the speed it is being assembled (with free wi-fi you all too often get what you pay for), well, I hope you brought a book to read.

I did. I picked up a new copy of Janisse Ray's "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood" today (yesterday) finally. I read it when it came out and it is one of my favorite books of the 21st Century so far. It is about the Longleaf Pine ecosystem, and growing up in Baxley, Georgia. Which has worked out well for me to peruse as I upload each picture, as I have just finished planting 53 acres of Longleaf Pine just up the way from Baxley.

This morning (yesterday) I was walking in the doors of the Wal•Mart there in Baxley thinking "man these Big Box stores sure are boring when I know they won't have any new baseball cards I want in them" as I had been thinking the new 2014 Baseball Cards wouldn't be out until the 31st for some reason.

So when I approached the cash register (yes, I picked that one aisle with the cards, of course, just in case), well I was pleasantly surprised to see … Mike Trout? Again? What's up with that? I won't post that image for you, again. I would have wagered on anyone but … Mike Trout. The 3:2 Vegas line would have been on Yasiel Puig I would have thought, with Andrew McCutchen being pretty deserving as well, 'cept of course he plays for a dreaded small market team.

I hope some baseball card blogger will look into something for me. What happens to a baseball card cover player that season? It didn't seem to work out too well for Prince Fielder last year. Or perhaps Roy Halladay in 2012 either. But why would I give up juicy blog topics like this? Well I love blogging about baseball cards of course, but I see my time will be limited for quite a while yet. I do have a few "hotel" jobs on the horizon at least, but I also have lots of other things to blog about, including a fun new collecting project. We'll look into last year's project eventually here a little later on tonight. Or whenever this post actually makes it to the actual Internet, which remains to be seen….

And the cards, can we see some cards now. Yep, here we go, my first Baseball Card of 2014:
No, I didn't get special Test Issues of an extra-large wood-panel inset card. I am back to taking pictures of baseball cards with a cell phone, on a desk. When I walked out of that Wally World though, did I immediately rip that pack of cards? Of course. But then I also immediately pulled up a nocturnal baseball card blog for the first time in two months, just in case, to see if I had lucked into some special secret Topps test of putting Mike Trout on the packaging again - i.e. if y'all had found these cards too….I see I am still just a normal Topps customer.

Well I'd say we're off to a good start. I made the mistake of looking at the 'Sell Sheet' sometime last summer, so I already knew what the cards would look like. That took a lot of fun out of ripping the pack. I won't make that boo-boo ever again I hope. Except of course I do already know what 2015 Heritage will be, visually.

But I like this card, mostly because it shows a complete baseball player. Even one of his shoes. Maybe this will be a good omen for the photo selection and layout this year.

And I always like the special throwback uniform cards. Nice white belt to match the white letter "C" there, well done Cleveland. But for Topps….not so much. Apparently they missed the memo that Chief Wahoo is now only to be found on antique items. Of course baseball card collectors now demand that their cards instantly be antiques and most especially have the same dollar value as antiques, which is mostly a highly dubious proposition to most sane people, so maybe Topps is onto something and Cleveland Indians cards might actually sell this year.

As for me, I won't miss Chief Wahoo. But we are here to discuss baseball cards, specifically The Baseball Cards. Didn't Topps notice the big letter "C" on Lonnie's batting helmet there? Shouldn't the logo in the lower left match the logo the players actually wear?

I like these Baseball Cards well enough. I will eventually own a complete set of them, and many extras as well, though as much because they are The Topps Baseball Cards, and that's what I collect, whatever may come from the pack. I don't like them as much as last year's cards, but they are serviceable enough - i.e., not ugly. I'm not a fan of the faux die-cut border on the one side. It makes them look too much like … the last how many years of Bowman baseball cards? And I just don't like Bowman baseball cards, which have come to epitomize everything that is wrong with baseball cards today.

I mean this year I will be rooting for Byron Buxton to fail as a major leaguer. Which is a darn mean thing to type, though not half as mean as your average Internet sports comment. I just want to see the end of things like people paying $8000 for a baseball card of a player that hasn't even made it to the Major Leagues yet.

Oh dear, I'm wandering away from the Baseball Cards again. Let's see another one
hmmm. Haven't I seen this one somewhere before?
I actually like that card quite a bit. It would have made my Best of 2013 blog post if I had had time to write that one, in the "Best Appearance by the Baseball on a Baseball Card" category. I especially like cards like that, where you can see the seams on the ball, and the batter is going to whiff on the pitch.

Now of course, there are only so many possible poses for a baseball player. But here on my second card of 2014, we are right back to context-less torso shot. Sure, it's a live action shot. But it might as well be a posed Posey there. Let's try card #3
Well, I suspect I already know where this set is heading. I hope at some point this year to have some time to bring you some cards from all the way back in 2011….the differences are striking.

Among the other features of the 2014 Baseball Cards, well the Wave or whatever it is just brings me back to 2012 and the Surfboard. And I have had my share of foil by this point. I wonder if the Opening Day cards will skip over it this year…..I suspect not, with that Foil Wave there, which doesn't photograph well. Bonus points if you can figure out in this post what color the case on my smarthphone is.

I do like that Topps will be more able to randomize the photos of the players they use a little, in that they will be less tempted to have to lead you by the hand to what position each player takes on the field via their photo selection. Though of course, First Baseman are kind of expected to hit Home Runs and trot around the bases.

That's because: The Position Is Back On The Front Of The Card! Yes! Where it belongs. Through many posts last year I mentioned I couldn't really get into the 2012 set for some reason. That was the reason. I want the player's position on the front of my baseball card. Maybe that makes me a "Position Nazi," but so be it. I buy baseball cards to know who the players are, what position they play, and who they play for (insert scary foreshadowing music here…) Is that too much of ask of my Baseball Cards?

That about covers the fronts of the cards. Topps is still up there in the corner, sans umbrella this year, which is OK. Except for one more type of card:
Nice! I like that extra little bit of Topps decision making there. I'll probably put all these Future Stars (which again doesn't photo well, but I'm sure you've seen these) together on a binder page for future reference for my grandkids or something, though I'm not sure pine trees will actually be able to ponder baseball cards. Heck I might even throw together a set of the 1989 Future Stars. I think it was 1989. I think I have, like, piles and piles of those cards sitting around somewhere. But I might need a couple. I've got some extra nickels if you could help me complete that set one of these days.

Now about that photo cropping again:
I just don't get the Topps photo editor's fetish for chopping off the player's hands. I really liked Burnett's card last year - in large part because it showed all of his arms and legs; I just realized I will be adding a copy of that one to my These Cards Make Me Dizzy collection. But his 2014 Baseball Card is just another card to me. The cool look of his eyes each focusing to his right is nice though, but just, nice.

And now in my first pack of cards (a Jumbo Pack! of 36 cards — I would normally buy a more regular pack on this special One Day, but this particular Wally World didn't have those this morning) I have reached the first horizontal card:
I like horizontal cards. I prefer them. I would like to see a Complete Set of such cards even, without borrowing the double image design element from the mid-50s sets of such cards.

But making a horizontal card of a player from the belt up is just kind of….well, pointless. It seems fitting that I would find Jose Bautista on my first horizontal card this year. Anthony Gose, another Blue Jay, had a similarly purpose-less bit of cardboard in Series 2 last year.

And, as last year, I think the horizontal cards are probably all on a single sheet. If I could get a hold of an uncut sheet of modern baseball cards (and I love sheets, with or without perforations or whatever print or plain white is on them, mmmm, sheets) and had to pick only one, I would pick the one with the horizontal cards. Why do I suspect that about the sheets of Baseball Cards? Because the horizontal cards always come together in the packs now, at least in the big packs of the various sorts. The parallels work like that in the blasters too. In a blaster, all the parallels are either all horizontals, or no horizontals, generally.

Now my next horizontal card is starting to improve this pack:
Kick it, Kris! I like Leg Kick cards. I started to pull copies of them aside at one point, but eventually let that mini-collection go, as I couldn't decide on which ones made the grade. Some are magnificent, like last year's Justin Verlander card, and some are just, nice. Medlen might be at Comerica Park on this one, like on the Verlander card last year; perhaps with less of a crop to the photo it would be easier to tell and could have been a nice homage linkage to two incredible Major League pitchers.

This Medlen card has a lot going for it. Throwback uniform, primary baseball colors, Great Sox, and harmonious lines harmonizing everywhere, even the Swoosh. But again the cropping just gets to me. I don't like a card that makes me wonder if I'm about to bump into the ceiling while I'm looking at it, like last year's Juan Francisco card. I guess though, that like the Burnett card, the pay-off of all that zoom/cropping is we get to see Medlen's eyes each focused on the result of that pitch. And at least he doesn't look like a teenager any more. But I just feel like I can't breathe right looking at this Baseball Card.

Fortunately, we have another horizontal card on the way:
Yes! We have a winner! Jonathan Villar could be on his way to being a Legend of Cardboard perhaps, with a second great card from Topps, after his outstanding sliding-into-home entry in Update last fall. (I really hope Greg Dobbs is hanging out on some interesting card in Series One again….)

Now we all know these Base Cards are just pointless filler to be thrown out or burned on our way to scratching off a winning HIT on our lottery tickets - a Parallel:
These will be the most common parallel, this year's Foil, obviously red this year; and a parallel horizontal right after the 3 horizontal cards…

I like the boldness of the tint keeping it towards Primary Red at least, as technically it is the "Red Hot" parallel, Topps tells me. But I have had plenty of enjoyment out of last year's parallels. I am still working on that project. So when you find that poor neglected pack of cards that slipped out of a blaster and in behind a couple binders at some point last year and you open it now to discover a pink bordered copy of Ryan Braun's 2013 card #8, well, hit me up, please. I think I will make large dents in my remaining needs for the project once I get that COMC deal working, finally, I hope. If only I didn't have to work….but if I didn't work, I couldn't buy these new Baseball Cards. Such a conundrum sometimes.

Overall though, I will be fine with collecting Base Cards this year. Like this one:
Now here is a player I've begun to follow because of his baseball card. I can even vainly hope Topps read my thoughts on his almost-good card last year. Now I finally get my wish. Justin Turner turning a Double Play, though it looks like it kinda hurts when Topps cuts your hand off. Yes, Topps, you already told me now that he plays Shortstop there on the front of his card, though I'm sure it was tough for Topps to determine just which Mets infielder will play where on the diamond this year.

I like this card for some other reasons as well…great colors, plenty of dirt, heck I even like finding another entry for my Budweiser binder page.

I'm also always intrigued by the Turning Two cards when I can see about whom the 2nd base Umpire is now saying "Yer Out!" In fact I have a special pile of those cards…
Thank goodness it's David Wright at last or I might have started to get the DWs - David Wright withdrawal symptoms. Topps never misses opportunities to get him on some more baseball cards. After three cards in my last set of the Sea Turtles, the ridiculousness called Update Chrome, it took all of eleven cards in 2014 to see David Wright again, sort of.

And perhaps we have a Turning Two Hot-Pack going on here, hmmm.

At least this year there are plenty of Astros in Series One, as their cards didn't require as much work for Topps as they would have in S1 last year, with all new logos and such. Why here is another 'Stro now:
OK, an outfielder at the plate, nice Eye Black, hmmmmm, another pair of eyeballs intent on a live pitch, perhaps we will have a theme here, or I just missed that all the time last year having fun riding on the back of the Turtles.

Wait, did I type "Back"? Yup, perhaps it's time to check out the backs of these cards:
More Wave action here. And the player's position again, which is nice, but in such tiny type….why?

The two notable new features this year are the Rookie Fact, and a certain new statistic there on the far right.

Now of course I read the backs, and I read all 33 Rookie Facts in this pack (3 inserts), so you don't have to. I kept thinking they were Rookie Fun Facts, but that was just me projecting the idea that the backs of baseball cards should be fun. Instead, all 33 of the Facts I read were things that could only possibly be known by, and not even of interest to - Baseball Card Back Writers, whoever they are. I used to think I would want to be a Baseball Card Back Writer, but reading these Rookie Facts made me realize I am much luckier to crawl over loggging slash and through briers with a 30 pound load of seedlings on my back, getting bit by mosquitoes, rained on and sunburned all at the same time every day instead of trying to discover bizarre baseball statistic factoids to write. Tough stuff to do all day, every day, I am sure now.

Eventually I will discover the one enjoyable Easter Egg fact the Baseball Card Back Writer left for us in this Series of Baseball Cards. But it won't be this day.

Now, what was what over there on the right of the stat lines? WAR? Yes, though, no, I won't make any trite references to it's name here.

Yes, here we are in the 21st Century, fittingly enough after the baseball club that Bill James now works for won another World Series, with Sabremetrics on the back of our baseball cards. At last.

Yawn. Yawn? Isn't this new and exciting? Sure, it's new. It's surprising, even, given that there is still more than one method to compute WAR. And even though all the baseball webpages (sadly, the most used baseball cards here in the 21st century) that report all the statistics add up WAR cumulatively, as Topps does here:
I'm just not that into it. I know that the numbers don't add up correctly because we are only seeing one decimal place. But wouldn't an average of the WAR from each year be a little more illuminating?

Who cares. Who cards? Stats nerds? They don't use baseball cards….today's stats couldn't possibly fit on 2.5" x 3.5" pieces of 'cardboard' any more. So I guess it was due to see WAR on cards. Maybe one of these days it will kick me into figuring out SLG and OPS. Sure, those are important, they tell me. But I can figure out quite a bit from the old time stats lines just fine. And if I could pick a single stat to add to cards, I would probably want to see OBP - on-base percentage. Because yes, I too watched Moneyball, several times. And might even read the book eventually. If I can ever snag the free time away from my baseball cards, like this one:
Hey, how did Brandon Inge sneak onto a baseball card again?

And what I was just mumbling about Nerds?
Nerd Power! It even explains it all for me right on the back of the card. Such perfection, making the Nerd Power card a Bunt Card. Nicely laid down there, Topps.

Now, much like Buster Posey, I predict a popular future for this player:
Because baseball fans just naturally like players with nicknames. I am happy to own my first Scooter Gennett card, as I was always happy to hear about his progress on Brewers broadcasts last year. And here I have his First Topps Baseball Card.

So where is the special little RC logo? That was on his Bowman card last year, it turns out. But not on his Pro Debut card last year. Or any other other dozen or so cards he appeared on before he made it to The Show last year. Such is the world of baseball cards today.

Now I was mentioning I like my baseball cards to help me keep track of which player plays for which team. So why does Topps make cards like this one:
Which is a pretty great card actually. You gotta love the unpopular persona of McCann now seen with a huge smile on his face as the airborne Gregor Blanco couldn't be more OUT! You Be Out! You are soooooo Out. Man this game is fun to play.

Classic card. It also has a classic back, with perhaps a final Chipper Jones quote from the Baseball Card Back Writers, who used them regularly, perhaps regularly enough to make binder page of card backs perhaps….
I guess Topps saw that photo and just knew they had to use it on a card. Which is OK; it reminds me of the Ryan Raburn card last year. So I'll give Topps that one. But then why the very next card in this pack:
A decent enough card though again the torso shot bores me (though I did just get four cards sequentially with the player's knees on them), and the mysterious One Sleeve still ?

But most of us knew Shin-Soo Choo won't be playing for the Reds this year. Just as he wouldn't be playing for the Indians last year when his Series One card came out. Maybe Topps is just setting up Choo to be the leader in unique base cards again this year, as he was last year. I had a blog post to illustrate this all ready to go for you (in my head at least) before I went back to my love of the pine trees. He had a different card in Series 1, Opening Day, Update, and Topps Chrome. Which is a nice thing, for a great baseball player, and something I would like to see for ALL of the Baseball Players. Different pictures on different baseball cards. Wouldn't that be sweet?

I just don't understand why Topps doesn't save the obvious Free Agents for inclusion in Series 2, with some cool brand new photos of a player playing baseball for his new Baseball Club from Spring Training that collectors (and especially those all important Player Collectors these days) would really look forward to — especially when Series 2 could always use a little more star power on the checklist?

At least the Choo card keeps repetition alive, as does Jose Altuve's new card:
Can't miss a chance to use Poster Boy. I do like when the digital age captures the dirt flying though, though digital doesn't work as good over-the-air photographically as it does with scanning lasers. There is good flying dirt on that card though, trust me.

Speaking of missed chances, I was really looking forward to finding a certain card this year, for which I had high hopes that it might me just the second card since this legendary slice of baseball immortality:

But instead, we get just "OF"

Overall I do like the Hamilton card, though I can't help but hear that strange springy sound made whenever Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, used one of his Bionic parts. Maybe that's the sound created when you hit your head on the top of the baseball card though. That weird side to the card makes it look like the cards would be a little springy.

Perhaps Hamilton will go on to set some Base Stealing records. I guarantee he will at least make for easy copy for the Baseball Card Back Writers for the next few years. If he does get famous, perhaps that card will be worth a quarter some day. If only I could have got his card in a Parallel, like this one:
Finally a HIT in this pack of baseball cards I can throw away now. A "Green Camo" parallel, which seems to be stretching things a little, in a nomenclative sense, which isn't a word, but you knew what I meant in the same way you understand "Camo" here. These aren't numbered this year (horrors!) though I would expect someone to quickly deduce that there are 100 or 99 of them from the all-important "Pack Odds" on the back of the pack, since we know there are 50 Pink copies, and, well, such things bore me. As does this boring green color. Sure, a baseball field is green. But not pastel green. Yuck.

Of course after any HIT in a pack we will find the inserts. I got a Future Is Now, (borderless action shot cropped heavily, OK I guess), an Upper Class card (as in Rookie Class, the only players anyone collectors care about now), and a Topps All Rookie Cup Team card. I'm sure you'll figure out the "theme" of this set once Topps hits you in the head with enough cards. Kill those dumb veterans already, why do they keep clogging up my baseball card collection?

I only shot a bad cell-phone picture of the last insert. I wish I could tote a scanner around the country with me, but so it goes buying baseball cards and traveling and blogging. Anyway, here is a Jim Rice card:
I hate these cards, which is probably why I didn't bother with whether the picture was focused well. All that empty space in the design, obviously sitting there for the Relic/Auto or even the ultra-desirable Relic + Auto versions. I don't get why they even foist the non-Relic, non-Auto versions on us. I like Jim Rice. I like the 1975 Boston Red Sox, which are part of some of my All-Time Baseball memories. But I don't want essentially a floating head card of Jim Rice just taking up space in my pack of baseball cards.

And I was looking forward to this little insert set. I always like the Topps All-Star Rookie Cup cards. Could we at least have gotten one of the versions of the Rookie Cup on the All Rookie Cup Team cards? Go figure. I will say that I have some hopes to score one of the 'Manu-Relics' (eww!) this year. We'll see….and then you might see….

And naturally after the inserts (I look forward to finding just a couple of the 1989 die-cut minis, and I know I will eventually buying one of the Hobby Only "Clear" /10 parallels, probably of some washed-up &/or AA player that signed with the Marlins), we have the Retail parallels, of which this is the Wal•Mart version:
As in previous years I have to wonder why this parallel can't be a nice deep dark primary blue, as used in the MLB logo and even the Wal•Mart logo? Have fun chasing the pastel rainbow I guess. One set of Parallels is enough for me. At least I got a Mullet Card this year. Maybe it's a Wig Card, kinda hard to tell there.

That leaves just a few cards to go here, including a likely Karate Card / memorable Turning Two edition:
I suspect this Series might include a new record for these cards, or maybe I just did hit a Hot Pack of the things.

And finally with just two cards to go I get my first 2014 Detroit Tigers Baseball Card:
Huhhh. Technically, I could add this to my The Pitcher's Not Pitching collection, but it's just too blah for that really. I hope Rondon leads the leagues in Holds, WHIP, K/9, and any other stats you might like for 8th Inning specialists this year, just to prove Topps wrong for releasing such a downer card for one of my Tigers. What did Detroit ever do to New York to deserve this treatment from Topps? Oh, yeah, I guess there were a couple recent playoff series...

And now I can tell by the feel of the stack of cards in my hand that I am at the end of the 'pack' (I left off several for you to rip on your own), and what a perfect last-card-in-the-first-pack-of-the-year, card #331:

The Cup! I guess if you get The Cup you can't also be a Future Star? Or are already? Or only were last year, on the Sell Sheet? Or maybe there is a special exemption if your second Topps Card is really identical (lame) to your First Topps Card, technically, whichever was his First Topps Card amidst all the short-prints. Ahh the mysteries. To solve them, of course I'll probably have to go rip some more packs….