Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Pack!

So I bought a pack of baseball cards. Yeah, yeah, so did you, and you, and you, but not over there in China, that one is just a web crawler trolling for - ? I wonder what I would have to type to generate a bookmark over there in the People's Republic?

Anyhow, see if you notice anything new about this pack:
Yes, I thought some blogger somewhere should report the demise of the 2 panel "rack" / "fat" / "jumbo" pack. Maybe that will get the attention of the Chinese - ace Japanese pitcher moves to America, triggers savings in plastic wrapping material. That would probably need to happen with basketball cards for anyone in China to notice, actually.

But this does mark a certain end of a long tradition - the long pack of baseball cards hanging on a peg. It has of course been a long time since we could see the cards inside, but those long packs were a certain tiny part of the traditions of baseball cards.

Personally, I'm OK with this, less packaging material is a good thing. I really sometimes wonder why Topps sticks with the "packs" in a blaster box, and I hope that is the next place they look to save a few pennies. And yes, I will still be buying new packs of cards in the future, as I love ripping packs and I will have to get a chance at the random cards I put on my idiosyncratic binder pages somewhere. And it  is still the very best way to keep an eye on what Topps is doing with all those baseball cards.

Though the minimal color cards this year made me so sleepy a very strange thing happened to this pack of baseball cards in my possession - I bought it 3 weeks ago, and never opened it! What the hell? Not to worry, my friends, baseball card collecting has gone on as usual here at the Base Set base, I was just too busy dealing with old base cards to look at the new base cards. What the hell?

So even though I haven't made it as far as blogging about my Series One cards this year (I did get them all bindered up, and I recently picked up the bulk of Series Two to start on those - I'll post some of each soon I hope), let's see what I found in this new-ish pack of baseball cards.

First card:
And, yawn.

Though I must say here I find it odd that with Topps designating blue as the Yankees color, the red of their iconic icon logo really stands out, and though I've never been a fan of the Yankees, I much prefer this logo on my baseball cards rather than the blue NY used last year (Topps seems to agree as this red logo is much more common on their cards than the NY). It also works well because the Yankees never place this logo on any uniform, so when Topps uses logos on the cards, the Yankees never have those overly busy cards that result from multiple logos, a topic I've been working on for an upcoming post.

So here I am with a brand new baseball card, and I'm not yawning. Thanks, Topps. I won't even ding you heavily for lopping off Francisco's elbow, as on this card:
Yes, his elbow is complete — but why just slice the baseball in half with the photo software? It would change little of the live game portrait style the set editor goes for on every card Topps issues these days, to just include his complete hand and the baseball by decreasing the zoom % just a single point or two.

I complain about the zoom choices of new cards fairly often (best fortune cookie ever says: "Human invent language to satisfy need to complain.") That doesn't mean I don't like all live-action close-ups, or that every last body part absolutely must be visible on the card:
This card works very well without Brignac's left elbow being visible, as the photo has captured the intensity of waiting for a Major League pitch, and the lines of the image converge nicely on the intensity of Reid's grip on the bat - your eyes are led to the batting gloves, not off the card, as on this shot:
That is another classic still image for a baseball card, but leaving Santana's thumb sticking back into the frame kind of makes for a whole that is less than the sum of the parts. I think the focus is again on the hitter's eyes, which is kind of interesting here as well, probably more so on-card than on-screen. Maybe Santana will go on to multiple fan-ballot All-Star appearances and this card will become an iconic RC on it's own, though that mess on the left edge will certainly detract from that.

The Santana card contrasted nicely with this one:
I did not know that the Twins sport two different left shoulder patches these days. I've always liked that big Minnesota patch on the Burton card; the patch on the Santana card is a new one for me. Maybe if I could watch baseball on TV all the time, I would know these things.

But I always like looking through the Update cards to find all the new-this-season patches, and this pack didn't disappoint:
Though you have to squint a little to see the Mother's Day patch there on Tyler's left breast. I believe this was new this year; here is a nice downloaded-from-web-somewhere view:
With all the zooming going on with the cards these days, that might look nice with a little bit more zoom, actually. Never thought I would see a pink LogoMan.

Update is a quirky set of baseball cards for many reasons, including the way it is now frequently the home of "sunset" cards:
And that seems like a nice one for probably the only card in this set that has a first stat line that starts with "95" in the YR column. I've never been a fan of Giambi, nor a hater, but by the time any player has made it to 20 issues in the base set of Topps cards, I always like their final cards. There are several such in Update this year, also including Daisuke Matsuzaka and Bobby Abreu. All 3 players got photo variations in the set - a nice touch by Topps. 

This could be a sunset card for Chief Wahoo there, unless he pops up on a Fan Favorite type retro card in some future set, but I'm good with that.

So I was reading the back of the Giambi card, and in fact read most of the cards in this pack. That's a main reason I buy them. The unique feature of this year's card back is the "Rookie Fact," like this one:
Usually the Rookie Facts are totally forgettable, but if you squint at them long enough, you find a few kinda interesting ones. Pitchers hitting the ball is probably an easy go-to for the writers as they skim a player bio:
I'm pretty sure I set that one aside to share with you as I read through Series One, when Arroyo had a Reds card. 

And there is always the hope that the baseball card back will connect you to the history of the game:
Here I am in 2014 still discovering things about a favorite player of my youth, Carl Yastrzemski. Again, thanks Topps.

Another neat thing about the card backs in Update is they sometimes discuss the just-completed season:
But not many people buy baseball cards for the backs. Actually, zero people buy them for the backs, unless I go out and break my long-standing aversion to Bowman products and pick up some 2014 Bowman Chrome mostly for the interesting card backs I've seen on the blogs lately.

So let's get back to the fronts of the cards. This one caught my eye:
Check it out - a baseball player's knee! There were only 4 cards of 36 in this pack wherein that body part could be seen, if you don't count a pitcher's leg kick (always a sure bet to see on any of Bronson Arroyo's cards).

That card also certainly made me notice a card later in the pack:
I'm not sure I've ever pulled two cards from the same team in the same pack for the same individual position on the field. Perhaps I have in the several dozen other fat/rack/jumbo packs I've picked up the last several years, or whether you count the 72 card "hanger box" as a "pack." It just seems like for the last four years or so, I am always pulling cards of S.F. Giants infielders named Brandon, and just tons of S.F. Giant infielders in general. It's like they have a special infielder bullpen full of almost-could-be guys out there. At least that's what I glean from Topps anyway, who has yet to issue a Joe Panik card outside of Bowman or Minor League products.

So anyhow, what about those other cards in the pack, that might actually feature a famous baseball player instead of all these Update back-ups? 

Let's take a look:

POW! That one's going on the "None" page - as in "None More Red", a page I dreamed up just tonight when I opened this pack. It will only have one other card so far, though I will probably put other colors on the page so I have some chance to make it to 9 cards some day. I certainly never expected an Oakland A's card would end up a contestant in the reddest card of all time. This card is so red, it takes the viewer quite some time to even notice the All-Star Game logo there in the corner - even though it is mostly red!

Maybe if I can find the Red Foil parallel of this card, Sean and Ted can have some company:
A pity the Cardinals can't really put red birds on a red alternate jersey. Maybe if we ever get a little bit of a "loose" photo selection out of Topps again, with a player wearing their warm-up jacket. I think it's been awhile for one of those cards. Don't even get me started on the fact that all the All-Star cards feature the special warm-up uniforms as on the Doolittle card - I pulled 5 other such boring cards.

I did promise to detour from those base cards, so here ya go:
Is there any more useless card back than the back of an insert? The story of a home run in a Gulf Coast League (high or low A league, I forget, and absolutely don't care)….yawnzzzerz.

The front of this card is quite strange and I will have to compare it to the few other examples I have from Series 1 & 2; I'm not sure if it is an example of Topps checking out what some menu option in their photo software does, or this is just a warm fuzzy analog photo somehow. I'll return to this another time.

I was really surprised to find this card:
I really like it when I get a card of an All-Time Great in a new pack of baseball cards. Especially when they play for my favorite team. Though Kaline (name in foil = Boo) retired when I was 7, I have grown to be a fan through his post-playing work in the broadcast booth and his continuing work in scouting and development for the Tigers. I even saw him give a short speech at Comerica Park on Ernie Harwell day some ten years ago. I will never forget it.

I'll never be a fan of insert designs really intended to be a base for "Relics", but I would say these are unique in that the team logo is all in foil, including the Tiger graphic. Though I don't care for foil, I kind of like it's use here. I've already been on the lookout for the Stargell card on this insert checklist; it should be interesting to see some of the others.

So being not quite old enough to know the details of Kaline's Farewell, I eagerly flipped this card over:
I knew he hit his 3,000th hit in Baltimore, his hometown, and the 399 Home Runs, but did not know that about announcing his retirement. For a second time in a brand new pack of baseball cards I'm picking up information tidbits about long retired Hall of Famers. Another Well Done, Topps.

The inserts and parallels always fall just past the middle of a pack of course, so this means I have a few more cards to check out:
It's always cool to pull the player on the wrapper, though the Rookie Debut cards are a slightly dubious proposition. But when they are a horizontal card this nice, complete with lurking fielder in the set position, they are A-OK with me.

The 2014 design probably works best on the horizontal cards; there is a better supply of color from the design. This set would have been very nice in a radical all horizontal issue not seen since 1956 (it's time, Topps!). I will be assembling these all together for some interesting pages, probably. 

Quite often these days, the zoom fetish just wastes the always big potential of the horizontal format:
Though I am always a sucker for the cards with the colorful gloves. There are plenty of those; I can never decide if I actually want to make a special page of them. Probably not - just not enough going on, usually, on those cards. At least the baseball doesn't get sliced off on these cards; even a careless photo editor can figure that out in the horizontal format.

One feature of the 2014 set that surprised me is a return to documenting the 2013 Highlights:
Though all we get is a number, and one word: "500 Homers", as this is actually a checklist card with no further elucidation, not even the date, of this feat for Albert Pujols. And it would not have surprised me at all to see the Checklist cards somehow be connected to Rookie accomplishments, to go with the Rookie Facts and the Rookie, Rookie, Rookie theme of all the insert sets particularly in Series 1 & 2.

But a nice baseball card for one of the Hall of Fame statistical points. Nice touch by Topps to use a photo featuring a fan wearing a vintage St. Louis uniform for this one.

One probably-not-collected-by-anyone-else meme I like on cards is Empty Seats. And 2014 Update has a doozy of a card for that page:
Empty Seats at Night! Oh yes. So many neat image components here, many working very well with the swoop of the card design. A first mystery is the blurry red-white&blue bunting = Opening Night? No, there wouldn't be empty seats on Opening Night. But the bunting might stay up for the whole Opening Series, and Pomeranz pitched an inning in the third game this year,  a night game of a day-night doubleheader after a rain-out I guess; a 4-6 A's loss to the Indians). The line of the script Athletics on the uniform works tremendously setting up a second main horizontal line image, just as the bill of the cap goes with the other line to the left - really quite a photograph here. The cropping/zoom is perfect again on a horizontal card, and I even like the Nike swoosh this time in an upside-down appearance.

So though the 2014 Topps Baseball Cards didn't grab me as much as their 2013 models did, I know I will probably always find some enjoyable baseball cards in every new pack of baseball cards. I hope.

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