Tuesday, January 29, 2019

and your Psychedelic card of the year is

It's a brand New Year's Christmas Eve of Baseball Cards and you can't be naming Cards-of-the-Year for 2018 any more, and there aren't any 2019 baseball cards yet?

Don't tell Luis Ayala that.

It's 2019 and the Psychedelic card of the year is from 2012?

Don't tell Luis Ayala that. Psychedelic things are allergic to "Time" and they reject the very use of the term.

Relief Pitchers never get to bat and never take batting practice?

Don't tell Luis Ayala that.

You are losing the ability to read the text of the card and aren't sure it says A-y-a-l-a?

Maybe it says something like A-y-a-h-u-a.......or maybe it is just a Psychedelic font that can only be revealed after double reverse mirror imaging and saying the secret code word backwards three times.

The Psychedelic card of the year was scanned in a little crookedly?

Do you think Luis Ayala would not laugh at your suggestion that a Psychedelic card could somehow be scanned in to a just exactly perfect 3.50" x 2.50" laser etching?

Psychedelic things are supposed to be flowery, warm, and fuzzy, not vaguely menacing with an uncertain worry about just what might happen in the short term future?

That's how Psychedelic things sometimes work, unless you are Luis Ayala, I guess. The desert is home to many Psychedelic items in his home state of Sinaloa and he seems rather unconcerned about his future. But yours, on the other hand...

Major League Baseball players are supposed to take off their wristband from the music festival before they enter the field of play?

Don't tell Luis Ayala that.

The Orange & Black Orioles aren't supposed to wear Pink accented batting gloves?

Don't tell Luis Ayala that.

Infield dirt is brown, not melting it's way towards becoming Oriole orange?

Don't tell Luis Ayala that. His bat is starting to turn orange too, and I think it is starting to vibrate.

No one knows just what is happening out there to the Oriole faithful all Orioled up in their Saturday-go-to-ballgame finest but now, now something amorphous is happening to them, and we don't know what it is, do we, Mr. Jones?

No, Luis Ayala doesn't know what is happening out there, either. It's the Psychedelic card of the year, and if it could all be perfectly explained, then it wouldn't be very Psychedelic, now would it?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

My favorite recent /x

I am not posting this card to brag about pulling a valuable card. It is worth maybe $3, or maybe $6, depending on if you want to wait one year to sell it, or two. At auction, it might only command $2.

I am not posting this card to show off some cool /x visual card. This is a very fine baseball card, don't get me wrong. The Braves sure put together a nice set of gear for their Catchers, and there probably aren't a whole lot of In Action cards like this one, for all Catchers. Flowers has his mask already peeled off for some sort of fielding action on a slow night at the ballpark.

I would have to wonder how many people can recognize the single visual clue about the appeal of this card. Unless you have lucked into one of these - & they are very difficult retail pulls, nor is there one in every Hobby Box, either - or you have a long experience with Topps iconography, the visual clue on this card is sneaky. Unlike other 2017 parallels, and this is technically a parallel, the clue is not in the bottom right corner, but rather in the top left corner.

Here is the back of the card -
There is just a hint of another visual clue in that scan, something that is noticeable to the eye alone about the card, but is not all that significant as it is something you pick up after already knowing what kind of card it is.

And the back reveals the value of x in the /x = 99. Which then reduces the mystery of which parallel it is down to the solution: this is a "Vintage Stock" parallel.

What I have enjoyed about this card has mostly been just having it kicking around the card desk. It is thick, it is not glossy, it feels like a baseball card should in one's hand. Sadly, it's times of supplying baseball card entertainment are drawing to a close, as my desk must be cleared for 2019 cards, and a pile of receipts that must be interfaced with a pile of brand new tax laws.

Of course, I could receive the same tactile baseball card enjoyment from collecting Heritage, but Heritage has bored me to tears for several years now. The '65 design in '14 was the last one I collected. The original designs from that point, until '71, arriving next year, just didn't have much appeal to me. But I still could have collected Heritage and enjoyed those cardboard baseball cards - if they held any eye appeal in the photos. They don't. Sure, the original cards were largely similar, largely of profile shots taken in Spring Training. But those original sets always seem to have held more innate variety, when I see images of them here and there online. Part of my problem with the photos used in Heritage is collecting portions of Archives here and there over the decade just mostly passed. Those cards use the same photos as Heritage, for the most part.

If I see one more Boston Red Sox card with the player standing in front of the same shrubbery they have been standing in front of for ten years now, I am going to simply turn that card into a frisbee and never go look to see where it lands.

I do have some hopes up for cards to arrive 13 months from now, in 2020 Heritage.

In the meantime, my hope for these Vintage Stock parallels would be for a big production increase. These cards are inserted in both Hobby and Retail products. Even in Hobby, a small portion of them might be never placed out for sale as singles, if they accidentally get mixed into a stack of those useless "base" cards. Coming out of Retail packs, that is even more likely.

I would like to collect a lot more of these Vintage Stock parallels, maybe even try for a Team Set some day. It would help tremendously if the print run would increase some. The only time it would be all that simple would be right at release, when the greatest quantity of them will be put up for sale. Maybe when Series 2 arrives this coming summer, I can give the Tigers a shot, but it is not something I can do right now.

I hope you have pulled one of these cards in your packs of baseball cards, or will luck into one over the coming months of collecting brand new baseball cards. My advice is to leave it kicking around the 'top' of your collection - literally - the top of that little pile of cards you want to send someone, on top of the cards you want to scan for your blog, the top of that pile you want to find a spare toploader for ... but don't actually put it in a toploader.

Pick it up, read the back, flip it over, re-absorb the baseball picture card, flip it over, re-memorize some fine point of the text on the back you already forgot, and enjoy a baseball card the way they used to be. You will be buying a pack of Heritage again before you know it.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Ladies & Gentlemen, Your 2018 Topps Tigers

I realized today that I am running low on time to consider 2018 Topps baseball cards. If I had a Wal-Mart in my town, I could already have some 2019 Series One in my idled hands, as their online sales type people didn't get the memo about "Release Date," and one could order online and pick-up in store, like, now.

I am a little bummed about that team card - but only in a personal way. It is actually a very nice baseball card effort, a National Anthem Team Card, as it were, without making me buy an extra 79 packs of Opening Day just to get one of those cards. I already buy those packs anyway.

But I can barely positively ID most of the players. Baseball players without their caps are just a far more mysterious thing. This card did make me realize that if a pro ball player wants to go to the grocery store, the last thing he is going to wear is a ball cap.

The 2018 Tigers were at a pretty low ebb, and few expect the tide to come in during 2019, either. One of the more striking things about the position the organization finds itself in, in my baseball card centered opinion, was the # of Tigers cards issued in 2018 in the Topps Baseball set: 15.

When I learned that - FIFTEEN cards, and that was it, of my favorite team, in a 700 card set where they were due 23.3333333 cards under the Topps MLB Checklist Slot Sharing Agreement that I always presume is operating on every checklist, well, I had to investigate.

The experience drew me closer to wanting to cough up twenty bucks and give it to Baseball Reference to use their website ad-free for a year. But that really costs about one blaster of Topps baseball cards, so I'm not sure that's gonna happen.

Before we consider the results, I know you would probably just rather see some cards, so let's go card heavy first and tl;dr later.

The Feel Good Hit of the Summer
Here is another indicator of how bad things are for the Tigers right now - this is their only RC in 2018 Topps Baseball. Including Update. These are sets where an RC logo swims by you on seemingly every 5th or 6th card, and the Tigers had exactly one in the entire set(s).

Goodrum was a fun player for the Tigers this year. Every team needs that competent, super-utility player that can trot out to any position on the field, and occasionally spark a sneak victory against a winning team, every 3rd Tuesday or so. These players might be more loved by baseball card collectors than most other fans, at least in the Social Media age, or at least in the Tigers fan base. Their previous two athletic, standard issue MLB players who took the utility role - Brandon Inge and then Don Kelly, were routine targets of vitriol from the "fans," who think the 29 teams that don't win the World Series all 'suck' and so does every player that doesn't make the All-Star team. I look forward to watching Niko play this year, or, at least listening to him play on my radio broadcasts. He will remind me to stay away from the "comments" on Tigers media coverage.

One of the 7 Tigers cards in Update was a 'Rookie Combo' card for Grayson Greiner and Mike Gerber, who will both be playing a whole lot in 2019, because the Tigers have little other choice but to play the kids this year. 'Rookie Combo' cards are a bit more of an older-school way to introduce players to the Topps Baseball collectors, but I remain unclear on whether they will then get an actual RC logo card when they get their own (maybe? probably?) cards this year.

If There Were Still a Tigers Leaders Type Card
The other main piece of good news (the only other?) for the Tigs this year was a new peak in offensive production from Nicholas Castellanos. It was nice of Topps to officially change his name to 'Nicholas' on this card, as per an actual public request on this point from Mr. Castellanos - he wants to be called Nicholas now, no mas Nick, please.

That tiny detail made me think Topps is actually paying attention to the Tigers, something I gave them props for in my 2018 Favorites post where I told the story of the back of the John Hicks card. But then other times I think they just copy/paste/click their way through creating Tigers cards as fast as they can.

Castellanos did get the Tigers name into some Top 20 AL Leader stats for hitting this year. But moving him back to the Outfield from his teenaged position of Third Base didn't work out this year all that much better than it did when he first came up to the Tigers, and was still blocked by Miguel Cabrera playing at Third back then. His OF play, like his 3B play the last couple years got the Tigers name onto some Bottom 20 AL Not-Leader stats in outfielding.

So what does Castellanos have on his 2018 baseball card? Check out his Rawlings glove there kids, as he trots out to play in front of a lot of empty seats, something that will be seen on a lot of Tigers cards for a while to come. 

A Wave From the Starting Rotation
Topps did manage to pretty much cover all the starting pitchers this year, though reclamation project Francisco Liriano did not appear until the Update set. This card is actually my favorite of the starting pitchers. Boyd had some good games on the mound this year; perhaps he will yet merit a "#2" designation in the rotation as he matures, or maybe even pass former Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, who is a bit 'on-the-bubble' in the 2019 season to come, though not quite as much as ...

Player Most On The Bubble

All Detroit fans want Jacoby Jones to succeed. He is their Byron Buxton, and not just in terms of being an alliterative name. He is blazing fast in Center Field, and plays -great- defense. Comerica Park, where the Tigers play 81 games a year, has a large outfield and the Tigers need speed in the outfield, though historically they have often been unable to resist yet another slow slugger (like Castellanos) at the corner spots. So there are a lot of hopes we have found a long term everyday Center Fielder, at last.

And one would think this card would really buoy those hopes - Jones is rounding 3rd after just hitting a Home Run! Tigers action card of the year! He hit 3 of those last year! Sadly, I would like this card so much more if Jones could win his battle with the Mendoza line. The true expectation of most is that he will be lucky to make it to the Series 2 release date - let's hope he is on the 2019 Series One checklist, instead.

Most Telling Tigers Card
In one way, this was the worst Tigers card of the year. It is the first appearance of Zombie Miguel Cabrera, who has never before looked old on a baseball card. Now he does, and there are still five more seasons to go on his contract. I actually think he will have a good year in 2019; he has had several frustrating seasons all too often riding the treadmill or whatever his physical rehab machine of choice is. But this card certainly doesn't get anyone excited for the future.

A Bit of a Sunset Card
Victor retired this year after a solid career in Major League Baseball, and he almost seems to be waving goodbye here. One of the nicer games of the year was when he was honored by the fans and Tito Francona in Cleveland - a class move over there across the Lake.

All the things that saber-metricians compile about players had been trending downwards for Martinez for some time, as everyone would expect. And that didn't really hurt the Tigers; they didn't have anyone else to plug in at DH really, as Miggy wants to stay in the field, and that is probably the best call - keep your future HoFer happy.

This card, however, reminded me of a couple other recent Martinez cards from Topps. It is almost mocking, the images they would select, as above, where basically the worst base-runner in all of MLB is about to launch himself toward First Base. Everyone in the stadium, including Victor, is just hoping it is a Home Run so we don't have to worry about the outcome, like on this card from 2015:
I guess this could he a Home Run trot card, but I don't think so, and none of us in Tiger Town ever wanted to be reminded of what it was like to have Victor hit the basepaths for us. That was still not quite as goofy a card as this next one -
Here is our pretty awesome Designated Hitter (he really was quite good, until the very end) out at his normal position with the Designated wait, what?

Such things are the norm I have come to expect from Topps' coverage of the Detroit Tigers. In the summer of 2017, they issued a Tigers card for Mike Aviles, who had been sorta traded/released to the Atlanta Braves - in 2016! The back of his card was an absolute wrong classic as it informed us in the How Acq slot: "Trade with Tigers 8-16-16".

This year, it seems they wanted an encore of that baseball card set lowlight, and we got this card:
This might have been a nice feel-good Veteran redemption return story card; lots of players give-it-one-more-go every March on the back diamonds in Florida and Arizona. But this one didn't work out as Travis Wood was released by the Tigers on March 8, 2018 and subsequently retired.

That card, and that astounding total of only 15 cards across S1 + S2, led me to a deep dive on the question - what _could_ Topps have done differently for my sad-sack 2018 Tigers?

The conclusion I reached surprised me: not much. I agreed with most of the Topps decisions, though I felt they could have put Francisco Liriano in Series 2, rather than Update, as a much safer bet to actually get some more Major League starts. I am out of cards I wish to scan for you, and the players named below don't have any Tigers cards, mostly, so you will just have to read on if you wish to play Topps Baseball Set Creator, like I always have, all my life.

49 players wore the olde English "D" this year for the Tigers. But only 19 of them appeared on a Topps baseball card. Ian Kinsler had a Tigers card in Series One but had already been traded away last winter.

15 S1+S2
-1 Team Card
-Ian Kinsler
-Travis Wood = 12 players

+7 Update cards
-1 Joe Jimenez All-Star Card
+1 player on "Rookie Combo" = 19 players

What happened to the other 30?

I should note right now that two 2018 Tigers cards can only be found in the Factory Team Set, the small retail set Topps issues every year in about June. Those 2 are Dixon Machado, a middle infielder who this year lost his battle with Mendoza-like batting results, playing only until late June, and Buck Farmer, who is somewhat like a Tigers version of Dylan Bundy but with more willingness to work in the bullpen. I like to buy those, some years, but considering how many players in it this year won't be in Detroit by 2020, I never summoned up the energy and $8 (w/shipping) to order the 2018 version.

That leaves 28 players.

One was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who got probably his final 7 MLB AB for Detroit this year. Jacob Turner pitched probably his final MLB inning, just one, for the '18 Tigers. Both have previous Tigers cards and no one wants a final memorial for such appearances. But those are definitely edge cases.

Meanwhile, Leonys Martin got some 300 AB for them and should have had a card; he was signed in early Dec. 17 and then traded at the July deadline - so no Update card. He could have been photoshopped into S2 easily enough though I would prefer a Spring Training shot. 

The Tigers had an about average result Rule 5 pick, Victor Reyes, stay on the team all year as they pretty much must, posting a .526 OPS over 212 AB. Should have had a card I guess, could have been in Update, though half his At Bats were after the deadline. He might or might not get playing time in 2019 after that roster spot investment, but - .526 OPS.

Then they brought up a 26 year old journeyman minor leaguer on 5-31, Ronny Rodriguez, who managed a .591 OPS over 191 AB. How often does a 26 year old call up get that many AB (but only 60 of them before the Trade Deadline / Update card cut-off, and all @ well below the Mendoza line), and how many of them stick in MLB into the next year? Into the next month? Tough call for the set editor on that one? Easy call.

Next on July 3rd up came Jim Adduci for his 2nd fill-in with the woeful Tigers after doing the same in 2017. He got 39 AB in July. Worth a card in Update? He went on to 176 total AB and a .676 OPS. He has never been on a Tigers card, though I would like to see one. But at the Update/Trade Deadline, again he only had 39 AB so far.

Rookies - Dawel Lugo got 94 AB, almost all in September. Another middle infielder, like Ronny Rodriguez, but young and tough to project as an obvious call-up until he got more time in AA through the summer of '18.

Christin Stewart got 72 AB, another young MiLBer, also tough to think "needs RC, now", and Harold Castro got a 10 AB sip of coffee. Both could still see cards in the future, as could Lugo. Occasional recent Major Leaguer Pete Kozma did "warm body" duty also at a few points this year, like Salty and Turner, though reaching 73 AB, mostly in September, and turning in a .584 OPS - worth a card? 

On the pitching side, Mike Fiers was a very successful reclamation project for the Tigers after signing a 1 year + option deal in early December 2017. He would have been an infinitely smarter choice for S2 than Travis Wood. Traded @ the deadline = no Tigers card in Update, where he probably would have appeared if not Traded. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a Tigers card on the cutting room floor / PC 'Recycle Bin' inside Topps HQ, along with Leonys Martin - they did both appear on their new teams in Update.

Out in the bullpen, 10 pitchers put in more than 20 innings, ranging all the way up to the regulars at 60 and even 86 IP - but without getting a card (Daniel Norris, a starter, received a card but spent most of '18 on the DL; I am not counting him twice). All fans routinely detest relievers in general, even moderately successful Closers, but especially Middle Relievers - if a Middle Reliever was really good, wouldn't they be a Closer? (Who do get cards). 7 more guys, aside from Turner, appeared from the pen for less than 20 IP.

Overall, I would put in Fiers instead of Wood, and somehow add Leonys Martin to the Checklist for sure. They both did get a Tigers card in Heritage High Numbers - those cards use the "Photo Day" images - each would have to have been artificially photoshopped into S2 - who likes those cards? 

It is worth noting that if you want as many cards as can be found of every player that appears for your team, don't neglect the now annual Heritage Updates, Traded and Highlights - "High Numbers" - set each year now, where players otherwise difficult to slot in to S2 or Update can be found as they change teams during the creation of Topps baseball cards each year. The 'Factory Team Set' should not be overlooked, either.

There were some tougher calls on the mid-summer call-ups; would have been nice to see Adduci get a final Topps card after a long baseball career. Victor Reyes was .... a Rule 5 pick. Always a mysterious fate. Ronny Rodriguez would make an OK card for a fluke season but what if he fizzled completely after his 66 Jun-Jul AB? (Which he pretty much did.)

To represent more of the 2018 Tigers on the cards, the increase would largely have to come from the Relievers. Does anyone really want that? I can tell you this - casual fans pretty much just usually hate relievers. All they can do is fail, in their minds, usually. This is particularly true in Detroit, which has had a terrible bullpen for as long as all Tigers fans can remember.

This is also true of all but the best Closers. If it's not a 1-2-3 ninth inning, the fans don't like a Closer who allows a base-runner or two but still gets the Save. "Why does he always have to give me such a heart attack? Arghhh!"

So I really don't think most fans want a baseball card of a random middle reliever. "Set-up Men" and Closers, OK, but that is plenty far enough into the bullpen for most.

Overall, I have a feeling I will have a similar amount of Topps Tigers baseball cards from the 2019 Topps Baseball set (S1+S2) to consider in October, 2019, when I am looking through some fresh Update cards and then able to consider the 2019 Team Set as a whole. As I write, no one, least of all Topps, Inc., knows who will play the majority of '19 games for the Tigers at Short, 2nd, and perhaps all 3 Outfield spots if Castellanos is traded and Jacoby Jones fails to hit again. DH remains a large hole as well, unless Miggy can be persuaded to do it so an un-traded Castellanos can give the glove a try for a 3rd position. The Pitching staff will have some more Pelfrey/Liriano/Wood/Fiers type project players (Matt Moore and Tyson Ross, who could last all season or could be gone before Series 2 comes out as well). The bullpen could suddenly gel; the Tigers are kind of due for some good luck out there. But we still won't see many Reliever cards.

That leaves a whole bunch of Rookies to try out. I think this year, we will see a few more RC logo cards   in Detroit, but probably not until Update, when all these muddy waters will clear some.

I am sure with all this awesomeness the 2019 Tigers Series One Checklist has not been easy to create for Topps, either. Can I root for your team this year?

Monday, January 21, 2019

New Blog Announcement: The Sea Turtle Cards

Hello there, fans of the base set. I'm not sure how or where else to do it, and can't recall how I got this blog off the ground five years ago, so this seems like the best and only place to do this. If you have read this blog since the beginning you won't be too surprised at the contents of my new blog.

I started a "Set Blog," documenting the 2013 Topps Baseball set, sometimes referred to as the "Sea Turtle" cards, given a key design element there in the bottom left corner.

The address of the very first post is:

There is also a link to it right there on the top right of this blog, which I will continue to write occasionally as well, when I can. Both of these blogs will remain irregular affairs, but more and more I realize one thing about life - the Internet never goes away. So no matter how long the new blog needs to document the 2013 set, which could be a very long time indeed, I expect one of the largest Internet companies on the planet will keep it around for me.

Recently I attempted to assemble some of my writings about an entirely different topic, Brook Trout fishing, and when I attempted to start a blog for that I ran into a bit of an oddity. The blog name I desired was already taken. By a blogger who wished to write about roller coasters, and had managed to make it all the way to about half-way through their very first post, and then ground to a total and complete halt, with 3 paragraphs of text on a single page on a screen and nothing else. In the year 2005. But Alphabet, or Google, or Blogger, was still patiently waiting for them to come back, and finish that first blog post, 13 years later. You never know.

My new blog contains a built-in documentation not just of the 2013 Topps Baseball set, but also my attempts to collect a unique version of that set, as partially illustrated by the card shown above. Let's call that the Pre-Production Promo Teaser sample card for the new blog. Those get valuable, decades later, I hear.

Here at Base Set Calling, topics on the horizon include My Favorite Recent /x Pull, a So Close, So Close post, and a look back at the 2018 Topps Tigers, such as I can, with the Tigers I managed to collect this year. Hint: I still need some. 

So I'll see y'all again sometime soon; looking forward to all of those topics, and plenty of looks at 2013 Topps baseball cards, and the best thing of all right now -


Friday, January 18, 2019

Snowflakes & Baseball Cards

These can't possibly mix, can they? I mean, we are normally cooing over cardboard captures of the Boys of Summer - not Winter. But then this coming summer, Winter will finally arrive (on HBO at least) in Westeros, after years and years and seasons and seasons of warnings about it in Game of Thrones.

But I digress. I am actually quite pleased with the forecast for this weekend, though I suspect many of you will not be. I am snug as a bug, well north of the big storm system. And it will drop up to a whole foot of snow on one of my jobsites for the coming Spring, in northern Ohio, which should significantly help flatten all the vegetation on it, making it quite a bit easier for me to plant 7,000 some trees on it.

However, all is not icy frolicking fun up here. This crazy government shutdown is becoming more challenging for me by the day, as I am largely a contractor for the Federal government. Their employees will ultimately draw their pay for this month; I will not. Blogging about my worthless baseball cards is one of the few things helping hold sanity together, right now.

Fortunately before The News got cascadingly worse lately, I picked up some brand new baseball cards issued back in December. Brand new baseball cards in December? Who does that?

Topps, that's who. They can't really let a month go, buy without a new baseball card product for us to go oogly-googly over, can they?

I know I certainly can't, no way. Though with Series 1 purchases on my horizon quite likely to be quite limited, it has been nice to be working on my gonzo collections and sharing my google-oogle results with you.

So while I enjoy the last rays of sunshine today and you are settling in for a home-bound weekend with a snow-covered driveway and an Internet connection, let's see what I found in a 2018 Topps Holiday Box.

This guarantees One Hit Per Box, junkies! I confess, I kind of like that. Lottery Tickets are the ultimate low rent, past-Midnight-on-Christmas-Eve-after-liquor-sales last minute Christmas gift, aren't they? But this was a Christmas present for myself, purchased somewhere closer to Turkey Day than Santa Claus Day. Oops. But even early on, a 1/1 Gold Snowflake Shohei Ohtani Autograph card would certainly create a long month of Christmas cheer, now wouldn't it?

I Got: Dustin Pedroia Game-Used Relic. I guess it's a good thing Topps stockpiles those game-used jerseys well before a player sits out almost an entire year.

And we can't have baseball cards without parallels, can we? This set includes special "Metallic Snowflake" parallels, with embossed Snowflakes. I kind of like those, too.

I Got: Miguel Cabrera. Which was a good thing, as that was one partial point of this goofy exercise. I wanted a Miggy card with the Snowflakes on it, and I even got the good, special Limited Edition, hurry on down to the Big Box before they all run out, sometime next whenever version. There is still very good supplies of this stuff for sale, in case you missed out. Pro Tip: watch for the "Extra Value Now $5.98" stickers, coming soon, I expect.

Though I didn't scan any of the glittery cards for you before they left for COMC today, and Miggy is now already locked away in the big box of Miggy cards I have, what I (naturally) really wanted was the base cards. And I didn't know which ones I would actually want until I saw them in hand.

So let's take a look, and for lack of any other way to organize these somewhat absurd baseball cards, let's go with my keeper selections in alphabetical order -
I would have guessed a Cuban would want to wear long sleeves on a chilly Opening Day game in Chicago. Abreu seems a little skeptical of this whole thing, but knows he has to run to first base whether the snow is falling or not, so he better get going.

And you thought these cards made no sense? Well, that really is a live action shot from a live action baseball game, played last April between my Detroit Tigers and the South Siders in Chicago. You would think the other stadium in Chicago would have the snow problems. 

Don't believe me? Here is an actually real live action shot from the game, kindly stolen from https://southsideshowdown.com/2018/04/07/white-sox-freezing-in-the-10th-with-a-9-7-loss-to-the-detroit-tigers/

Catcher Omar Nárvaez seems to like the snowflakes, or maybe is trying to touch one, dunno.

But Topps could hardly get so lucky with all of their source imagery for a 200 card checklist.
And would any team need an indoor stadium in April more than the one in Minnesota? Pay attention here people - Jose has his road grey Uniform on. No telling where the snowflakes are afalling, here. I just liked this one cuz of the way Jose's bad-ass shoes and his left foot leg kick seemed to pull the light fluffy snowflakes on off the surface of the Water Slide. That's how light fluffy snowflakes work in the 3D world, for all you readers in southern California. 

Meanwhile, isn't it always sunny in Philadelphia? Perhaps not for a night game -
Justin's not quite sure what he is seeing there in the stadium lights. And neither am I - all my Topps baseball cards this year told me Justin Bour plays for the Miami Marlins. On lots of cards, with a special card in Opening Day and even in a set of Water Slides issued with New Era baseball caps. And Update never told he moved laterally in the NL East, neither.

But that's what happens when you get traded on August 10th, past the famous Update Set New Card Deadline of July 31st every year. Topps always has your back with new baseball cards though, and never stops issuing them, ever. This card certainly made me wonder how many other brand new Water Slides might exist in these Holiday Boxes. An intriguing question that I don't have the cash, or quite sufficient curious bored energy, to figure out. If anyone else did, I would certainly take a look though.

Someone mentioned sunny days though, isn't that when baseball is best?
The Latin players aren't seeming very thrilled to be playing on a Snow Day. Particularly in blazing sunshine.

But what can a baseball player do, in the face of such adversity?
David Dahl knows what to do - run faster than the Snowflakes! Playing near the Front Range, one learns these things I guess, as long as you make it Home before the slipping and falling all over the place starts up. Too bad that card wasn't enough experience for their Playoff elimination game vs. the Brewers this just past bitter cold October had in store for them. Never bet against boys from Wisconsin when it comes to athletic activities in the cold. A pity I didn't set aside any Brewers from this product to test that notion with you.

I would expect the Dutch are used to some outdoor activity in the snow on occasion:
But Didi seems a little dubious.

Can the Dominicans handle a little frozen water flying through the air?
I'm not sure I'm allowed to reprint Edwin's thoughts here. Google might have a policy on that.

How about one of the fine MLB Outfielders the state of Georgia produces regularly? I have seen it snow in Georgia. Once. Has Dexter?
"I got it! I got it!" Oh, wait. Which one is the ball again? This Snowball game looks challenging.

Pitchers are almost always unhappy on their baseball cards these days.
I guess you would be too if you grew up in always sunny San Diego and ended up pitching yet another away game in the snow. Where did Topps shoot all these match-ups anyway?

I think the players are starting to get a little ornery on these cards.
See, James Anthony is sayin', I told you I didn't want to leave Toronto. They have a sensible indoor stadium, when they need it, there in Canada, where it snows a lot. Even on sunny days.

How about the many Venezuelans in MLB today? They actually have a tiny bit of snow in their country, too. Though all the oil they sold everyone heated up the planet so much that their last glacier is soon going to be on life support. Maybe Odubel Herrera has seen it though -

He sure seems to know what to do. Make like David Dahl and get Home before the Umps call this game.

And baseball cards have generally promised me that nowhere in the game is sunnier than San Diego.
I think Manny is trying to remember that classic rock song he heard in a minor league park all the time when he got to the States, whenever there was a weather delay. Something about if anyone has ever seen the snow, comin' down, on a sunny day. In San Diego?

Maybe the players from the southern states are starting to question what to pack on their next road trip -
Hardly seems fair for a player used to playing in one of the hottest stadiums in the Leagues.
Or one of the other hottest stadiums. I guess blizzards blowing in off the Great Plains can strike Kansas City any ole time, like today, or baseball season. Maybe Whit knows the key to figuring out which one is the ball, and which one is the snowflake, is proper eye-wear for all that glare that comes off snow and bright sunshine. I just hope he doesn't slip on that icy looking base there at the bottom. It's not often you get to see a Base on a Baseball card any more.

Probably though, these outbreaks of flurries are the worst, among the Americans at least, for the players from Florida, where it never ever never snows, right Chris?
Another keeper for my Chris Sale PC. Though it would be awesome if Topps could print some captions on some sort of children's set of baseball cards, if such were to still exist. They could title this one "Grumpy Cat unimpressed by Boston weather."

Meanwhile it still seems unlucky to get traded to the Yankees for the 2018 season.
Just another SoCal sourced baseball hero not quite sure just what he is seeing in this crazy game played with a white ball in the middle of all these huge white snowflakes.

But ultimately, as in pretty much all packages of Topps baseball cards, I can usually always find a graphical arts baseball card creation that I enjoy just for its graphicy-ness.
And that one there is just about exactly perfect. Tanaka's front arm motion swirls up the snow flakes for us to go for a ride down the Water Slide and off to Home Plate, though with his fastball about to possibly not fool the guy at the plate, since he can see it so easily. But it will be a fun ride - frozen Water Slides are fast. Did you notice yet that the Water Slide is always blue on these cards? Uhh-huhh, sure you did. My blog readers are sharp like that, like Topps is, with their carefully prepared seasonal products, like this one.

I don't think the Tanaka card is my #1 favorite from this box of baseball cards though. We often admire a player's final, "sunset" card, when we figure out which one it is. And though I know Topps has a new contract with Ichiro for signatures on baseball cards and there will be brand new Ichiro baseball cards for years to come, I also just today read the checklist for 2019 Series One - and Ichiro is not on it, on the #1-350 portion, anyway. So perhaps this card
could become, technically, Ichiro Suzuki's final sorta-regular issue Topps baseball card. And it all just kinda fits. The whole card is icy, with the blue colors all over, and what even almost looks like ice starting to grip Ichiro's torso. A bit of a chilly reminder, as with the spooky protagonists on Game of Thrones, that Winter comes for everyone, even one of the all-time greats of the Boys of Summer.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nifty Nine #1

In the deluge that is 21st Century baseball cards, I know I can't collect everything I like. Even with cheap 'low end' cards produced in mass quantities and assembled somewhat affordably, I can't keep 'em all, even if they were free.

Perhaps if I were a little more content with completing a project and filing it away in a dark closet in a long skinny cardboard box, very rarely to be ever seen again, I could keep more cards.

I collect cards largely on the visual appeal -- so I want to see these delightful little pieces of cardboard now and again, and a bit more often than is realistically possible once the cards are all entombed in those long skinny graves.

Which is of course where binder pages come in. Aside from dramatically improving the eye appeal of the horizontal cards, as I was babbling about just yesterday, they obviously greatly facilitate actually gazing upon all of one's baseball cards. Which is much better than just admiring the latest calculation of RC quantities held cross-indexed with hourly eBay bid results to give an update of the current value of a bunch of cards all stashed away in a long skinny column on a spreadsheet.

So today I am finally launching a series of posts for a collecting effort that stops at the nice curvy 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, as those nifty lads from Liverpool sort-of sang, once upon a time.

Seems apropos for the 200th post on this blog.

I have a lot of these all half-ready to go, lined up in a long skinny cardboard box, where a Bubble Gum Card rests comfortably next to a Salvador Perez card next to a So.....Thirsty card next to a The Pitcher Is Smiling At Me card next to an eventual Nifty Nine - Donruss 88 next to a Honus Wagner.

Yes, I have slowly come around to the idea of Player Collecting. But rather than obsessively accumulate 999 baseball cards of the same player over and over again, my baseball cards will perpetually be starring on Survivor: Ultra•Pro. If a card doesn't make the cut as one of the 9 best ever made (or, OK, sometimes 18), it will be voted out of the baseball card binder, by a single judge - Me. This will also work for sets - even 1988 Donruss has 9 most excellent baseball cards, I am quite sure. And for whatever goofy themes come out of my warped mind.

Some Nifty 9 efforts in that long skinny cardboard box only have 1 card designated for the final checklist, so far. Others are already overdue for a bit of curating action. I could probably survive being shut-in by a solid month of Arctic blasts if someone would just give me 25 pounds of Junk Wax ahead of time. Actually, I think I already have a whole month's worth of playing with worth-less baseball cards, all ready to go, if someone would just give me a month's worth of the most expensive thing on our collectively hallucinated planet - Time.

Speaking of which, it has been a long time now since you have seen any baseball cards on this here baseball card blog. Let's get wax crackin'
I like 1983. I would like to collect all the 1983 style cards Topps made this year. Just the basic version pictured above would include 250 cards. But would exclude hundreds more created for the "Silver Packs" cards given out with purchases of boxes and cases of Hobby/Jumbo boxes, printed with the "Mojo" refractor pattern on a checklist running to 150 cards. I just wrote 'hundreds' more because I don't know how many players might be on several Autograph checklists with yet another 1983 style card, but possibly a different image than the other 2 checklists, or are not on either of the 2 checklists to start with but do hang out on the Autograph checklist. And then there are a set of these style cards in 2018 Topps Chrome on a short 25 card checklist, with an even shorter autograph checklist, possibly with yet more unique varieties to be discovered, dunno.

That would be a fun collecting project, chasing all of those down. But it would not come all that cheap; though some cards might be had for 50¢, a handful of them trend north of $5 because we now live in the age of Rookie Card cards - why collect just one Rookie Card when you can acquire dozens of Rookie Cards all of the same Rookie? Plus, Hall-of-Famers & famous Veterans beloved by baseball card collectors can also be hard to track down. Player collectors who focus on a retired player only get a new card every now and again, so when they appear on a checklist like this, those singles sell pretty well and supplies dwindle quickly.

I did just read a thought from one of the biggest case breakers in the 'business', who mentioned that the recent 100 card 'retro' checklists can sell for up toward almost $1/card in a complete set. If I were to assemble these fun little cards via that route, I would probably not have been able to buy any other baseball cards at all this year.

And what I would really, really enjoy doing is collecting the black-bordered versions of these cards, which have a print run of /299. Those look sharp, from what I have seen of them online. Oh, to have 9 of _those_. I did not pull any in my random retail efforts this year, though I did pull a nice /50 Gold version of Anthony Rizzo; already on its way to COMC as I type however. Maybe that can turn into 9 of the black cards, from the inevitable RCs who become a FAIL because they didn't finish in the top 3 of the MVP vote for each of their first 3 seasons, or from amongst all the other washed up has-beens nobody cares about in the world of baseball cards. Those /299 cards will eventually be available for a fair bit less than $2.99, if you let some dust build up on them first and shop carefully. I think I can already see Nifty Nine #99 on the horizon, now that I think about it.

So I am left with picking my favorite 9 of the pert-near 2 dozen that I started with. I am happy with how it worked out. I've got a Rookie, 2 1980s stars, 2 recent Cy Young winners, some 2018 MLB regulars, some sluggers, some Aces. About similar to how Topps puts together one of these checklists. If I had a big pile of them it would be fun to assemble a colorful starting 9 team, one player for each position. Alas.

My favorite is probably the Canseco card - Pink always looks good on a baseball card as it reminds me of the bubble gum. But Jose basically disappears in the action portion of his card, so on other glances at this Nifty Nine, the De Grom card is my favorite, with his cheerful profile shot just before his excellent 2018 season. The next time I flip to this page in the binder, maybe the Schwarber card will be my favorite cuz it somehow reminds me of that kid Big Al, who likes to hit dingers - why doesn't he have a baseball card yet? Anyhow, such is the nifty-ness of cherry picking 9 cards to enjoy, rather than mixing them in with cards you enjoy a bit less.

You may notice one subset style I did not include in my permanent exhibit of 2018 1983 Topps - the All-Star cards. That design has been used at least twice already in the 2010s decadal run of 'Archives' look-back checklists of varying lengths from Topps. I didn't keep any of those, either. Though I like big stars on my baseball cards, the 83 is a bit too big for my taste, I prefer the inset profile photo, and I would rather just have the real 1983 All-Stars assembled all together, some day, in my unlimited time and money baseball card fantasies. 

I also noticed that many of the '83 All-Star versions, 75 of which are included only in Series 2, were in short supply on COMC. Which is more common for cards from Series 2 on a long checklist, and also for most retired players in a general sense, when considering inserts in brand new sets. S2 is the release in the S1/S2/Update Topps Trinity line every year which has the lowest print run. Even the Trouts and Harpers from S1 and Chrome insert checklists can barely be given away, something a bit less of a problem for S2 inserts and parallels. This is making me like the partially 'whatevered' Series 2 product a little more all the time. The half-dozen S2 '83 AS cards of 70s-90s stars I pulled will probably turn into a similar # of retail parallels I need for my 2013 project - thanks, Topps (& COMC, too). Or maybe some of those black cards I was just dream-blogging about, we'll see.

There was also one problem card I found on that '18 '83 All-Star checklist, which I lucked into pulling twice. If I kept all of them in their glossy binder page zoo cages for all eternity, I would have to look at this card whenever I flipped those pages -
Now, before you click away to some other favorite corner of the Internet, scroll back up to the first Nifty 9 I brought you and make that your take-away image from this post, and be glad you have a thoroughly professional baseball card curator looking out for you, always.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

For some cards, Bindered is better

I have been looking forward to this day since I first saw these cards.

But I didn't expect this action would become quite so physically imperative.

I knew I would want to see this little set of cards all together on a binder page. But today I was working on my 2017 Archives collecting effort, and this little stack of cards was obviously in need of plastic confinement - despite their quite hardy card stock each one was considerably bowed, inside of it's penny sleeve.

Their compatriots in the base '17 Archives set largely weren't; for the '60 and '82 styles at least. Such a pity Topps had to go cheap-skate on the '92 cards and issue them on junkier stock, just because 1992 already had weakened stock compared to decades earlier. Probably inevitable with a company run by a hedge fund, with customers who buy the products regardless of all their little complaints about it. The Aaron Judge Rookie Card wasn't in the '92 set, and that's what sold a big majority of the product. Not that it wouldn't have sold if the Judge RC _was_ on the thin '92 style cards.

I managed to complete this little set via the simplest method - purchasing retail 'packs' - in this case, mostly the hanger packs, which came with one each of this insert, guaranteed. Luckily I pulled the one key card, which is still a $10 card today. I think collectors are largely happy to have multiple Rookie Card cards to own. The singularity RC proved to be totally wasteful of potential collector cash, in a hobby awash with money looking to be spent. 

If I hadn't pulled the Judge on my own, the following binder page wouldn't exist, in my collection. I doubt if it does in very many other collections, because who would display a 40¢ card right next to an actually valuable baseball card?

I have always admired the Sport Magazine 1960 Rookie Star cards and would like to own some of them. 9 of them even. And particularly the Yastrezemski card, who was a favorite player when I was a little kid just discovering baseball. But I never spend money on vintage, even cheap vintage. I always feel like I will get more enjoyment for my spare 5 bucks added to my grocery bill, with a moderately sized pile of brand new baseball cards, than I will spending 5 bucks on a couple vintage singles, as much as I like those.

So 'retro' sets like Archives and some years of Heritage (I'm picky) are right up my alley. I particularly enjoyed 2017 Archives, except for the way it all disappeared from the stores nearly instantly, thanks to the Judge Effect. I know I will never find any discounted, that is for sure. Ultimately, just today, I decided to complete the 1982 and 1992 style checklists.

But not the 1960 checklist, though I have always enjoyed seeing images of one of the most colorful sets Topps ever made. The hefty card-stock in '17 Archives is completely pleasing to 'collect', at least for the '60s and the '82s. But something happened on the way to the printing plant with the 1960 style cards. Whatever special effects software Topps used to create the faux-painted effect the '60 style cards displays gave many of the players a terrible set of Raccoon Eyes, seen fairly clearly on young Alex up there, as well as the other Alex - Reyes - in this insert set. And also on the Judge card, which is so lit-up wrong I fail to see why his Archives Rookie Card cards are held in such regard. Such is the delight with 1960 Topps, I guess. But the Raccoon Eyes are such a routine occurrence in the #1-100 checklist that I just decided to pick a Nifty Nine from those cards and call it good. I never did pull the Judge base RC anyway, just this insert.

Meanwhile, it is such a pity that Topps will probably never switch to 9 cards x 9 cards printing sheets and make their insert sets in multiples of 9. Sigh. Alex Bregman will just have to be exiled from his checklist mates here, with all the other card #10s, #19s, and #20s I end up with on the Binder Page of Orphaned Inserts that I will fill up, some day.

It is always interesting to me to see Topps' efforts at rounding up a herd of Rookies and corraling them onto a little checklist together, particularly years later. These 10 'rooks are a mix of traditional draft picks from the USA and foreign born 'signings', and all have plentiful MLB service time at this point. My favorite is probably Orlando Arcia, who had that classic, scrappy Infielder ability to occasionally come up with a big game for Milwaukee in 2018, generally when least expected.

Given the design of these cards and how the generally disliked horizontal cards actually work, I knew when I saw the first one 2 summers ago now that this would be how I would want to enjoy them for the long haul in my collection: