Friday, January 11, 2019

More Favorite 2018s

Best Classic Baseball Card

I should have mentioned in my Card of the Year Post preceding this one, I picked a card somewhat the way Time Magazine picks the Person of the Year. That Angels Future Stars blast from the past Ohtani rookie is not my favorite card of 2018, not even close. I enjoyed pulling it and the thoughts it lead me to, in the 2018 baseball card hobby. But I enjoyed many 2018 baseball cards, as I always do. So here comes a whole bunch of them, and since I picked a Big League card to start, I'll roll some other faves from there first. I haven't finished that set (nor, with the abysmal state of retail collation, am I closer than about 85% on S1/S2/Update) yet, so I still might luck into some more choice ones if I can luck into some discounted packs as 2019 rolls along. I also didn't finish a set of the green bordered parallels that one could cut from the blaster boxes, so I might end up buying one online and ponying up for larger item shipping, which I hate - but I also appreciate, cuz it helps keep my baseball card spending under control, bigly. So here we go ->

Best Socks

Favorite Celebration Card

Normally, 'celebration' cards feature a bunch of team-mates on the card. They were a steady running insert set in Opening Day for several years as well. There is also no shortage of 'main set' (I will never warm to the term 'Flagship') Topps cards featuring a Pitcher celebrating a Win, usually a Closer, often with his Catcher.

This card is more of a brief, in-game vignette, most likely of Velasquez celebrating a single out as he returns to the top of the mound. This may or may not even be seen while watching a TV broadcast of a game. Since I rarely have a chance to do that, I depend on my baseball cards to help me "watch" baseball, and this card comes through for me.

Best Frame Break

It's a 'pizza cake', as my Spanglish speaking friends say, to have the bat break the frame. I like more creative efforts at such.

Favorite Bubble Gum Card

Salvy is one of those players who always seems to get good cards. And one of those players I probably follow and root for a little bit more largely because of that. Each passing window of likely trading in MLB, I am increasingly amazed that the Royals don't join the Rebuild Parade and flip him for 3 cards just released in Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects. I somewhat hope they do, largely because he has already achieved what he can achieve in Kansas City, as a perpetual All-Star and the 1-1 record in the World Series, with the heartbreaking loss and the perfect, there's-always-next-year redemption victory. Though perhaps his final achievement will be as a beloved, single franchise player that is so incredibly rare in the 21st century MLB. Let's just hope that if that becomes true, and it does seem likely sometimes, he doesn't fall off the cliff as sadly as his teammate out there in left field.

I think I have now probably definitely accumulated a permanent set of 9 Salvador Perez cards to keep in a binder page, if I could only find time to assemble them altogether (y'all will be the first to know). But this card makes me feel like it might have to be the first such true "Player Collection" page that will have to feature 2 cards in every slot, for a more robust 18 cards. And I was darn glad to find this card, because the only other Bubble Gum Card I can recall this year was for Manny Machado, who will make it onto the Bubble Gum Card binder page, again, but I hardly want one of his cards to make a 'Best Of' anything.

Favorite Card From Another Sport

You didn't think I would really stray from my love of baseball cards, did you?

Other Most Hated Card

No, I really do love that Mookie Betts card up there - 'Other' is cuz I also had to go negative in that Rookies post just previous to this one. There are probably other cards I really really didn't like this year, but not too many. And I would hardly want to rank them.

But this card seriously made me mad. I like 1977 Topps. That was the first year I started to pay attention to cards from the Detroit Tigers, because that was the first summer I lived in Michigan. This should be the perfect combo of retro design and team fandom, just for ... me.

And not only had I never even seen _any_ Hal Newhouser card before, nor even knew any even existed, this is a pretty darn good color photograph of a 1940s baseball player - you don't see those very much.

I will be keeping this card, and putting it in my Tigers binder. I might even pick up extra copies of it, given that any random "base" card now is considered to have essentially zero value, and nearly only one cost, really - shipping. And with those extra copies I will practice and practice my horrifying baseball card altering skills and color in that insanely stupid use of the color white in that yellow pennant, where we are supposed to read the word "Pitcher", but of course, we can't. And eventually some certain pen and some certain careful bit of penmanship will fix this card right up to be just exactly perfect, and the original, un-altered white-on-yellow FAIL of a baseball card will go straight into the circular file.

Most Puzzling Photo Selection

Maybe it is a good thing that A.J. Minter has a couple other 'base' RC logo cards to call his "Rookie" home later in his career, which looks promising. And maybe his seeming antagonistic pose on his '18 Heritage High Numbers RC explains this photo selection - perhaps he fought with the Topps photog that day in late February last year.

But I can't recall a live MLB action photo baseball card quite like this one. I never care for a picture of a player's butt, save for _maybe_some of the most dramatic action shots. This shot, snapped near the end of A.J.'s delivery of a pitch, somehow conveys the opposite of impending baseball action motion. It is weirdly sleepy. 

At least we do get to see his face in profile, not totally uncommon on an action shot from live baseball. And I do think there has probably been a baseball card printed in the past featuring a player with his eyes closed. But I can't say I can specifically recall one.

Ahh well, I'll knock off the negative waves now. Let's dig how beautiful these Rolling Stones water slide baseball cards can be, and check out some righteous and hopeful ones...

Best Home Run Card
We always gets lots of Home Run cards. Hitters admiring their latest moon shot is common. Hitters clearly on a Home Run trot can be seen on baseball cards. Hitters mobbed at Home Plate after a walk-off Homer are not unknown. Topps even immortalized one of the more immortal Bat Flips of all-time in 2016 Series One. I'm not sure if that one was previously against the Unwritten Rules of Baseball Cards. And this card makes me wonder along those lines too. Is this against the Unwritten Rules? I know if this particular bit of live game action was shown on replay, I would be cracking up. And maybe if Brian McCann played on the other team, trouble would be a-brewing by the time Khris rounded 3rd base. I mean, it's like you can almost hear him thinking here - "Man, did I hit that thing a mile, or what?"

Light, Camera, Action
This card speaks to me to. It sounds just like one of the sound effects on the near-30 year old Pinball machine 'Comet' - except it says "Ride the Water Slide" instead of the ferris wheel. That's because all the lines on this dramatic (to me) card lead me to a quick trip down the slide with my inflated Blue Jay water toy and it's sidekick the Canadian maple leaf. Or something.

Normally I would prefer lines that all converge up to the top of the card, or the side. But this card is not a downer. It is a Twilight card, from a late afternoon game, with the crowd now in shadow but the players still lit up. I always like those, though some sets never even cough one up these days. And nearly every strong line in the image is parallel, or close to it. The uniform leg stripe, the shadow line on the cap, Louie Saints' arms, a key bit of the RC logo, even what we can see of the overly lit player behind Mr. Saints ... all those lines lead us right to the iconic slide with it's pleasing cool blue on a warm sunny day, down the little dip, and boop, on to the next one -

Favorite Team Card
Favorite Team Card? Who does that? This card is, lighting wise, the near opposite of the previous card, even though they both include a section of the stadium now fading into shadow. I don't know who the main player is who seems to have just done some kind of Walk-Off magic. Nor do I care.

But somehow, the photographer managed to make this look like a live action shot from the 1960s, with a basic warmth captured even while the players are well-lit. It looks Analog, rather than Digital, like so many cards do these days; almost painterly-esque, even. 

And you can tell the Real Fans, the ones who come see a losing team, anyway, and sit in a sea of empty seats, like on so many cards these days - the Real Fans came to the game that day, and they are standing, and cheering, even way up there in the cheap seats! Baseball!

Favorite Yankees Card
Favorite Yankees Card? Who does _that_? I don't even like the Yankees. But I like this card. It probably looks best, in-hand, if you can bring yourself to hold onto something that has no monetary value, and is connected to the New York Yankees. Maybe I should have called it my Favorite Pinstripes Card. Oh dear, I feel a new side-collection trope coming, we'd best move along.

Favorite Tigers Card
Perhaps baseball cards are a touch less fun when your team is going for the League Lead in losses, lately. Or, perhaps they actually help ameliorate all the blah-blahs that come with losing 4 days a week. This year there were only a handful of cards of Tigers who will actually still be around the next time they have a chance at posting a winning season, which definitely is highly unlikely for 2019. I will be taking a look, right here with you, at the Tigers Topps results for 2018 soon. Jeimer Candelario will probably never be an All-Star, but it does look like at least there will be one corner on the field with a little continuity for a couple seasons, unlike most of the other 7 fielding positions.

Best Card Back
Now, another endearing Tigers blog selected this card as their 2018 Card of the Year, so you can check out the front over there. Hicks hadn't even reached 100 AB in MLB and was back in the minors  in July of 2017, so it wasn't surprising he didn't make the cut for '17 Update. But this year, he did.

And though I often think Topps is barely paying attention to the Detroit Tigers, this card back shows me they were. Because in a long long season of lowlights for my favorite team, John Hicks supplied my favorite Tigers play of 2018. Oh, Kevin Cash, you want to play some Nu Baseball and shift hard against this sluggish Catcher/FirstBaseman? Ok, says Ron Gardenhire, hold my iPad and watch this. Here is a Fan Shot view of the action, from the stands:

And here is a full game re-cap with the key details leading off to this fun play from Fox Sports Detroit, with the radio call from Dan Dickerson and Jim Price nicely subbed in for the critical moment (the way I heard it live); 1:25 is a good starting point for the tl;dw generation:

Apologies on the blockage there, though it can be watched on any other webpage, but not this one. Brilliant customer relations here, MLB. :(

Favorite Unknown Rookie to root for in 2019
In baseball, everyone likes the players with 3 names. Usually. And in baseball cards, everyone likes the players with 3 positions. Because you just don't see that on baseball cards. So this was a no-brainer selection. Now if only there was anywhere within an hour's drive that would fix me some falafel for dinner. Sorry, Isiah, I just couldn't resist. Bring your promising 1.6 Rookie WAR on out of spring training this year, and make us some glorious new 3B/2B/C baseball cards.

Best Rookie Card
Though I am nowhere close to owning all of the "Key Rookie Cards" of 2018, as if an entire season of baseball cards revolved around just 10 cards, nor will I ever be, most likely, I knew when I pulled this one it would be the Best of 2018. And everyone likes a Pitcher who can hit a Home Run. In the playoffs.

I like the Woodruff card because of the photo used on this object -

which obviously was the gensis of this iconic part of my life -

So whenever I pull a card that comes pretty darn close to this image, it's a keeper. I set them aside, and someday I will run a little side-by-side comparison on which card comes the closest to it. Brandon Woodruff 2018 Topps #179 RC could well be among the leaders, at this point.

Look Ma, No Feet!
Ahh, just chillin' after servin' up my latest meatball. Nah, I don't need the pitching mound, I'ma goin' for a ride on the water slide here.

Most Focused Card
I first pulled this card in Opening Day, and liked it then. It stayed the same in Series 2, but Thames appears ready to slug another Homer in Topps Chrome.

Thames is not looking at the photographer. He is not looking at you. He is focused on the incoming ball, which just landed in his glove - but before he has been able to re-focus his eyes to his next body motions needed to play the game of baseball. There are probably lots of cards in the 2010s that well capture a baseball player intent on his craft. But few of them can match this intriguing photo of a split second that has only just now flown past us.

Best Stadium Card

Best Stadium Lights Card
Only Stadium Lights card? Possibly. Probably.

Whoever shoots photos from the field in Atlanta, well, Topps needs to buy more photos from them. It's the 70s now Topps, it's time. Put the Stadium back on the baseball cards. Pretty please?

Most Revealing Card
You try plying your trade outdoors nearly year-round all your life. You carry a franchise on your back and generate most of it's All-Time leader statistics, all while all the retired people you live amidst would rather root for their old team, back up north, and paid attendance makes the construction of a 2nd level of seating in your stadium nearly superfluous. You try fighting the 2 titans of the AL East for your whole career, watching any talented teammate inevitably leave your clubhouse in hopes that they bring back in exchange a perfect combo of hot young players who can knock one of the titans off the top spot, someday, but inevitably also have to be traded to just try, try again. You gaze into the future of five more years of the baseball standings equivalent of Groundhog Day, and wonder if your career will always be this way. You, too, would end up with some well earned Crows Feet around your eyes, and the first hints of grey in your hair, in your early 30s.

Topps could have easily made this decidedly non-action shot another one of their unique short, or super-short printed 'Photo Variations'. The vast bulk of these sets are composed of true action shots, snapped during live baseball play. But some of the photos are not. Only some, in a given set, and I think a few more of them may have crept in to my 2018 baseball cards than normal. And I think they are mainly given to long-time Veterans, and in the Complete Set now, a bit of a true Topps salute in solid baseball card tradition, rather than yet another insert card not everyone really wants. 

The last card I set aside from 2018, which will surely make my annual Nicest Nine for 2018 Topps, or whatever I finally nickname the series for blog posting use, well this card and player needs no introduction, once again, as in a previous post.

Pawing through a stack of 2018 Topps Series One, any true baseball fan will stop, and reflect a little, and remember, when they see all the action on every card suddenly come to a stop, on this card. And that is what baseball cards are all about. 

1 comment:

  1. The Enciarte and Perez cards are great. Those socks! Teddy Baseball always goes good on new cardboard. Tons of great cards. You did well choosing. Thanks.