Friday, January 4, 2019

Closing Day(s)

It was a simple plan. After coming home from about 7 months on the road, I would sort all the 2018 Opening Day I had accumulated, find the handful of cards with a different photo than the player's Series 1 or 2 card, and put the fun little set to bed.

Sometimes, the light's all shining on me and my baseball card plans. And sometimes, there is a bit too much light - though I am not sure there could be too much light on a baseball card - a sport for a nice sunny day -

That is my second favorite card from the set. It has that just perfect (estimatedly prophetic?) shaft of light, lots of strong lines, a nice mix of sharp and soft colors, and a nice trippy empty seats section. It is a bit of a 'farewell' card - Cole's final card as a Pirate, and a card I like so much I have now scanned and posted it twice in my sadly now nearly bi-annual posts. He was due to appear in Series 2, wherein he appears in his new Astros duds, thus making this a unique card in Opening Day.

This has generally been the only way an Opening Day card differs from it's S1/S2 counterpart over the years. He was traded to Houston on Jan. 13th - too late to change this card. And usually, only players changing teams in a certain segment of the off-season end up with a distinct card in this set.

Not this year.

By my count, some 65 cards in 2018 Opening Day sport a photo not used in the 700 card "Flagship" set. That's nearly a clean 1/3 of the 200 card set and a large break from how this set is usually produced. Topps promised something to do with "Base Card Veterans" on the 'sell sheet' for this set oh so long ago now, and they delivered. It is easy to rip (wait, I thought that was a positive word in this hobby) on Topps for their little boo-boos here there and seemingly everywhere. It is far more satisfying to use that verb 'delivered' with the word "Topps" as the subject.

This is pretty good news for me, a collector of those worthless "low end" baseball cards. I have always enjoyed Opening Day despite the cruelly repetitive cards from _the_ Topps set of the year. Usually an insert set or three appeals to me, the price is right, and the "hits" are tough pulls - but that gives them excellent re-sale value, like this one:

That isn't true across the board; although the product is not blaring a "Scrub Auto in every Box" tagline on every packaging surface, the sometimes quirky hits that do appear can also have a scrub-like essentially randomly dubious value like cards in other products, too...

I mean, the good pull there would be a Mr. Met or Wally the Green Monster "Auto" that I am sure someone would want a bit more than this one, from the franchise with the lowest attendance in Baseball. Though why anyone would pay real cash money for one of these totally eludes me. Can I sign the Mascot autos next year, Topps? I am so old I learned cursive in grade school and I know I could handle the assignment. Maybe I should reach out to Marlins Man on the Twitter somehow, though I don't know if he has kissed and made up with Derek yet. I suspect not.

But that's how baseball cards work - there is not a $20 bill in every pack. If you buy some at about every trip one makes to the grocery store, like I do, what is in the retail packs lately is a whole lot of repeats. And even the 6 card, 1 insert packs of Opening Day have very funky collation these days.

That Cole card pretty much always appeared in a pack with a nice enough card in the exact same position in the Topps universe: the final card as a Pittsburgh Pirate for Andrew McCutchen. Ripping these packs over the course of the season elicited groan after groan as same-same pairs of cards appeared time and time again. 

It wasn't until I had some nice indoors time to sort these cards, using the #s on the back, that I found the most clear evidence I have ever seen of how the fairly not-magical Topps collation machine works.

2018 Topps Update Gerrit Cole is card #183.

2018 Topps Update Andrew McCutchen, it's steady pack-mate every time I pulled the Cole card, is card #83.

Many other cards appeared in my stupidly large stack of these things with the same sequence of #xx and #1xx. I knew I would have 7-8x of some cards, and 2-3x of many others, as so often is the case lately for dumb retail Topps addicts like me.

But I had randomly pulled cards (RC fever) aside all through the creation of that big pile of cards over many months of 'collecting', so I couldn't be sure just how this nutso numerology appeared in the packs, originally. So I ran back to my local Big Box store and scooped up their very last 3-pack blister pack of Opening Day packs that I was hoping was still there - a whole 'Tree-Fiddy' (yes, really, $3.50) of research expense for my devoted blog readers. I had purchased the next-to-last such blister the day after Christmas and I was praying it was still there, to get an accurate look at the actual pack packing of these cards. (I got a big hit from that next-to-last pack; you'll see that card here in my next post, very soon.) So much for the simple plan of just sorting a big stack of cards.

This is what I found:

Pack #1

Marcus Stroman #108 (unique to Opening Day)
Adam Jones #15
Ryan McMahon #115 RC (unique)
insert - YMCA Dance @ Yankee Stadium (dumb worthless card I have 5x)
Jon Lester #25
Austin Hays #125 RC (unique)
Ozzie Albies #13 RC (NOT unique)

(Most of the Blue Jays cards are unique in Opening Day; more on that in a bit.)

Pack 2

Carlos Rodon #25
Francisco Mejia #125 RC (unique)
Jon Gray #42
insert - Rockies Opening Day (yawn)
Stephen Strasburg #113 (unique)
Rafael Devers #2 RC (unique, sorta)
Adrian Beltre #102 (unique)

Pack 3

Xander Bogaerts #149
Miguel Cabrera #46
Chris Davis #146
insert - Cubs Mascot "Clark"
Jose Quintana #199 (unique)
Danny Salazar #38
Luiz Gohara #138 RC (unique)

Every pack held 2 "pairs" of cards. A lot of things clicked into place in my mind over how a "pack" of Topps baseball cards is assembled.

In my experience, collation slipped a fair bit down the hill a few years ago, and has stayed horribly bad ever since, across all of the flaggy-shippy sets I like to rip (this one, S1/S2/Update, a little Chrome now and again). I do not recall precisely which year this was, but I suspect it was 2015, when Opening Day went from a 220 card set to a 200 card set. I am pretty sure this also heralded a change in the basic design of a printing sheet, going from 110 card sheets to 100 card sheets.

And it seems obvious that in this release, the cards may have been placed on the sheet in sequential order, which is not the normal practice. But to get these #xx, #1xx pairs, I suspect they were; and then a card is cut from the 1-100 sheet followed immediately by a card from the 101-200 sheet - the same 2 spots on each sheet being then stacked together.

Now, I don't know the rest of the mysteries of the collating technology. I do think these card #s explain it some, and also explain those excrutiating runs of 9 identically sequenced cards that come out of all sorts of different pack configurations of the other retail flagship releases. Except those sheets are probably assembled without card #1 adjacent to card #2, like these Opening Day sheets probably were.

Or, I could be wrong, and there are still 110 card sheets with 10 cards simply "Double Printed' - it used to be a little sideline on checklists, to identify "DP" cards. But really I don't think those exist any more. Though my brand new 100-sheet theories leave a hole in how all the printing plant gadgets handle creating cards #301-350 in S1 & S2.

Unfortunately, it has been a long time since an uncut sheet of Topps baseball cards has escaped into the wild for Topps nutz like me to get their grubby paws on.

Ahh well, I bet you are starting to pick up some more of those little letter zzzzzzzs by now. Let's look at some cards already!
This card has the blah blahs; a card of a decidedly middling middle infielder in his magical 'new' road grey duds. Not up to my usual standards of showing you the good stuff and nothing but the good stuff. But it is actually one of the 2 most unique unique cards in the set - Solarte's only 2018 'Flagship' card as a Blue Jay. In Series One he was still a Padre, and he didn't make the cut for a brand new card in Update. (Gerrit Cole, conversely, got a new Astros card for himself in both Series 2 _and_ Update). 

Yawn. I just report the esoteric, not exciting, checklist news; probably the little z key is still chasin' yas. So how about this card:

Bazinga! I think if you are a Blue Jays collector, yas gottas get your mitts on deeze cards dere, eh? Here I am even subtly advertising the source in the photo, which I cribbed from eBay as I do not own any of these. I somewhat wish I did, but I also somewhat understand that I already have way too many baseball cards, anyway.

That is a "Blue Jays Canada Parallel" seeded one per blister pack at Wal-Marts in Canada, only. The Morales card is a unique Opening Day card; the Jays have 5 cards in the set and 4 of them are nique-sters (Josh Donaldson's is not). All 5 have a parallel like this, north of the border.

Whew. The things you discover when you set out to sort a stack of baseball cards. So, since I found all this cheap thrill baseball card treasure, let's see it already!

The Dodgers were the biggest winner of new cards in '18 Opening Day, so I had to keep them all together for ya, and for me, and my 2018 baseball card binder - the point of this 'simple' plan. That will probably be my only Yu Darvish Dodger card, ever.

As befits an NLCS winner, the Dodgers have 11 cards in this set. 8 of them get sui generis (haven't you, too, always wanted to use that in a sentence?) efforts. The ALCS winner, the Houston Astros, get only 8 cards. Exactly Zero of them vary from S1/S2. Conversely, their cross-state rivals up in Arlington or wherever, receive 7 cards, with 5 of them being these nifty extra work tasks carried out by the Topps card creator, who works for the Topps Chewing Gum Company --- Brooklyn.

That page includes the first of a bit of a gusher of nu-RC in this set -- 25 of them. I like them. Some day, collectors might start to value these Opening Day cards because of their unique content. In the Rookie Card Flood era, there are so many of the darn things for most Rookies, especially the hawt ones like Buehler & Verdugo out there in a pretty darn good baseball card market, some collectors are finally starting to collect cards to collect based on "eye appeal", from what I read on the Internets lately.

And that's a good thing. Though I don't want, need, or plan to own multiple Rookie Card cards, I do like the idea that I can end up holding a cheap little Opening Day card that someone else might want, some sunny day. And that other collectors have little choice but to start considering esthetics - that will lead to better baseball cards, for all of us.

Rookies Rookies Rookies, moar Rookies
Only thing to really note here is that one of the more anticipated RCs this spring, Rhys Hoskins, who has a multitude of RC logo cards in all sorts of inserts and retro insert subsets and autos (nifty sig, too) and every other kind of gimcrack Topps can think of you to get you to buy still more Rookie Cards - well, he does not get a special card in base Opening Day. Neither do some of the other S1 Rookies falling out of every other set of 2018 baseball cards in all directions, like Ozzie Albies and Amed Rosario.

Is this an example of Topps just really starting to dive into the little things, the itty-bitty things, like the way all us bloggers constantly try and whine them into doing? I would say, somewhat. These 'extra' cards of just ordinary not-hot Rookies are very welcome in my collection, and I don't miss having an extra Rhys Hoskins card as "hot" rookies get too many cards, in total, to want to keep them all anyway. I think the real reason Hoskins doesn't have a special card on that NL East RC page there is that Topps probably made so many other cards of him, they needed all the other photo rights they purchased for those other cards.

One "top" Rookie did get a hey, look, it's different card here -

I get a kick out of a "Rookie Card" for players that have already been placed on the Topps All-Rookie Cup team based on performance in their "Rookie" year. How did that happen? Eventually, I will have 9 of these things to amuse you with, all together on their special 2nd Year Rookie Card All-Rookie Team.

The actual photo on this ¿different? card for Devers is the same photo as his regular Series One card, which will always be worth infinitely more than a card from the red-headed little stepkid set called Opening Day, because the Series One card is a traditional vertical card, and the bulk of hilariously OC baseball card collectors hate horizontal cards. And particularly, horizontal Rookie Cards, like those.

OK, just a few more Rookies to go...
Yankees Rookies! I'm rich! Is anything better in baseball cards than a Yankees scout finding the next true Natural, nursing him up through the Yankees farm clubs until he is elected to the Hall of Fame part-way through his incredible Rookie season in Yankee Stadium? Oh, wait, that was last year. These guys are more ordinary Rookies, with questions on their defense and questions on whether they will be able to re-write "The Book" that all the veteran MLB pitchers will write about them, once they see them for a few more series, and a more than passing chance they will get traded to some sad sack team that lives in baseball card purgatory, like my beloved Detroit Tigers, who have a whopping 2 whole cards in this set - the same # of just Rookies that the Yankees have.

OK, now we can plumb the mysteries of just what is a "Base Card Veteran", per Toppseses very own advertising for these cards. Does that mean a baseball player who has already been on soooo many baseball cards in their career that Topps felt they should have an extra base card this year? I'm down with that.
Ooops, forgot, more Rookies. Dang things are as bad as Tribbles - keep an eye out around your card desk, in case they start to multiply.

Now, I wish I could ponder each and every special card in Opening Day, and how it compares to the counterpart card in Series 1 or 2. Sometimes these are better, other times S1/S2 is superior. Alas, I have already spent way toooo much time on this post and I still have a few more scans to upload. I will include an actual checklist of these cards in the Comments down below here, eventually.

I can recommend this nifty blog - the 2018 Topps Opening Day Blog. I hope it returns to action; it features an awesome breakdown of exactly which game each of these action packed baseball cards came from - check it out!

Personally, I do like horizontal baseball cards. Going forward in my collecting efforts, I am going to try harder to collect them properly - by freeing myself from the chains of sequential checklist #s and simply keeping 9 such cards all together on a binder page to make them so much easier to enjoy.

Of those, the David Price, Chance Cisco, and Greg Allen cards are clear winners, with so much winning over their other 'Water Slide' cards, that I will never get tired of such winning, that I can tell you.

I might get tired of all these RCs, though, whew. 25 RC logo cards in a 200 card set is 12.5% of the set - 1-in-8 cards is some kid who may or may not 'stick' in MLB. But those are the last ones to share, finally.

Meanwhile, I just realized I should have grouped some of these Base Card Veterans into a page with all Alternate Uniforms. I like those, particularly on baseball cards, cuz I can't see them on the radio, where I absorb most live baseball action. Colorful Alternate Unis make for more colorful baseball cards, and that is more better. This 2018 base design is really starting to grow on me.

A few more 'Farewell' cards in there for players who changed teams last winter, and a rare photograph of Troy Tulowitzki actually taking a recent At Bat for the Blue Jays. I hope that one is covered in that '18 Opening Day blog I haven't really delved, yet. And I would have to say that otherwise just ordinary baseball card for TT there is actually better than his Series One card, which is part of the weird "Pointing" subset fetish Topps produced this year in S1 & S2. Pointing is sometimes considered rude due to some ancient quirk in our DNA &/or our cultural DNA, and it doesn't always work on sports cards, if you ask me. If you want a final Toronto Tulo to remember, pick that one.

I did mention that Solarte card is one of 2 such in this set; the other is Ian Kinsler -
This will be the only California Angels 'Water Slide' for Kinsler, who pulled off a rare design+team triple header for Topps in 2018, appearing in Series 1 as a Tiger, Opening Day shown here, and in Update as a Red Sock. I was glad to see him finally get another chance to be on the winning side in the World Series after such a solid career, but felt pretty bad for him when he had such a Buckner-esque experience this time, though with the sting lessened quite a bit by his particular bad game making no difference to the outcome of the Series.

Still, a nice card to have if you collect Ian Kinsler, which wouldn't have been possible without Topps Opening Day, for pack rippers at least as it is also part of the Angels 'Factory' Team Set. 

Opening Day is now a set/product that I feel has been near totally re-born, and I look forward to starting to rip (the good kind) it all over again, in a little less than 90 days as I type.

I also found a clear, obvious winner for Best Card of the Set, which could obviously only come from these Opening-Day-only cards. My Best of the Year? Stay tuned. But clearly a contender. And this player had a really nice candid card, amidst all the all-action-all-the-time cards that make up 'Flagship' these days, in Series One - a pair of nice gestures from Topps, here. And I think there should be an excellent chance for this recently retired, future Hall of Famer to get a true "Sunset" card send-off in 2019 Series One, just four too long weeks away as I type. But if that does not happen, this will have to do, and will do nicely:

1 comment:

  1. Here is a list of the Opening Day variant cards I found. Please let me know of any needed additions/subtractions.

    1 Clayton Kershaw - Los Angeles Dodgers
    2 Rafael Devers - Boston Red Sox RC
    33 Zack Cozart - Los Angeles Angels
    59 Corey Seager - Los Angeles Dodgers
    60 Giancarlo Stanton - New York Yankees
    93 Felix Hernandez - Seattle Mariners
    101 Elvis Andrus - Texas Rangers
    102 Adrian Beltre - Texas Rangers
    103 Rougned Odor - Texas Rangers
    104 Nomar Mazara - Texas Rangers
    105 Kendrys Morales - Toronto Blue Jays*
    106 Troy Tulowitzki - Toronto Blue Jays*
    108 Marcus Stroman - Toronto Blue Jays*
    111 Daniel Murphy - Washington Nationals
    113 Stephen Strasburg - Washington Nationals
    115 Ryan McMahon - Colorado Rockies RC
    116 Jackie Bradley Jr. - Boston Red Sox
    117 Clint Frazier - New York Yankees RC
    118 Willie Calhoun - Texas Rangers RC
    119 Dominic Smith - New York Mets RC
    120 Nick Williams - Philadelphia Phillies RC
    121 Greg Allen - Cleveland Indians RC
    122 Brandon Woodruff - Milwaukee Brewers RC
    123 Chance Sisco - Baltimore Orioles RC
    124 Nicky Delmonico - Chicago White Sox RC
    125 Austin Hays - Baltimore Orioles RC
    126 J.P. Crawford - Philadelphia Phillies RC
    127 Victor Robles - Washington Nationals RC
    128 Alex Verdugo - Los Angeles Dodgers RC
    129 Francisco Mejia - Cleveland Indians RC
    130 Jack Flaherty - St. Louis Cardinals RC
    132 Walker Buehler - Los Angeles Dodgers RC
    133 Erick Fedde - Washington Nationals RC
    134 Harrison Bader - St. Louis Cardinals RC
    135 Andrew Stevenson - Washington Nationals RC
    136 Anthony Banda - Arizona Diamondbacks RC
    137 Miguel Andujar - New York Yankees RC
    138 Luiz Gohara - Atlanta Braves RC
    141 Zack Greinke - Arizona Diamondbacks
    142 Paul Goldschmidt - Arizona Diamondbacks
    145 Zach Britton - Baltimore Orioles
    148 David Price - Boston Red Sox
    152 Jake Arrieta - Chicago Cubs
    155 Melky Cabrera - Kansas City Royals
    157 Jesse Winker - Cincinnati Reds
    158 Corey Kluber - Cleveland Indians
    161 Charlie Blackmon - Colorado Rockies
    163 Ian Kinsler - Los Angeles Angels
    167 Chris Taylor - Los Angeles Dodgers
    168 Yu Darvish - Los Angeles Dodgers
    169 Kenley Jansen - Los Angeles Dodgers
    171 Justin Bour - Miami Marlins
    174 Eddie Rosario - Minnesota Twins
    180 Jeremy Hellickson - Baltimore Orioles
    183 Gerrit Cole - Pittsburgh Pirates
    184 Yangervis Solarte - Toronto Blue Jays*
    189 Steven Souza Jr. - Tampa Bay Rays
    192 Whit Merrifield - Kansas City Royals
    193 Robbie Ray - Arizona Diamondbacks
    194 Alex Colome - Tampa Bay Rays
    195 Marcell Ozuna - St. Louis Cardinals
    196 Alex Wood - Los Angeles Dodgers
    197 Parker Bridwell - Los Angeles Angels RC
    199 Jose Quintana - Chicago Cubs
    200 Shohei Ohtani - Los Angeles Angels RC