Wednesday, December 24, 2014

One last Hobby Box

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

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

So into the red storm clouds I went...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topps found 2 more 2014 Baseball Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas everyone!


  1. Are any of the cards for trade? If so please email me at


  2. I appreciate your initiative. I am really helped from your information.

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