Sunday, March 1, 2020

Backs in the day

Well I have certainly been looking forward to ripping this particular 'pack' of cards, that is for sure.

1971 marked a bit of a turning point for baseball cards; most any one interested enough in baseball cards to be reading an obscure baseball card blog already knows all that. The Munson card, etc., etc.

This then begged a certain question - where would Topps put the 'historically correct' cards in the Heritage version of the set? Clearly there would be a take on the Munson card; the Lowell Palmer / Pat Neshek card in 1970 / 2019 Heritage made that plain enough.

But for some time now, Topps has been adding the "value" that the Lottery Ticket Scratchers, err, "collectors" demand in their boxes of baseball cards by including a certain totally a-historical card in Heritage sets: the super short printed / photo variation "Action" cards.

Would the historical styled cards just be issued as deliberately super short printed cards? Or might they be just issued as part of the 100 card "short print" portion of the checklist, which no longer has any correlation to the issue sequence &/or basic quantity made of the historical sets, only some of which had exceptionally scarce cards usually referred to as "high numbers."

So....let's rip the pack.

First card, best card? Well, this was the first bit of baseball card I could see as I opened the pack. Given the current news in MLB, I thought it was pretty cool to see this particular card, first, sorta. And this was quite surprising to me, because although I own very few 1971 Topps Baseball cards, the relatively sparse info backs weren't ones that particularly made me think - yeah, I'm gonna buy some 2020 Heritage and read all those dark card backs.

And what's that I see down in the left corner? A fleck of white? My uber-valuable baseball card is already ruint, before I even get to take it to the bank. Thanks, Topps.

This particular card back is a bit of a classic effort by Topps - talk up something that can be seen in a picture of a baseball player, and then no way, no how, use such a picture on a baseball picture card that might match the text. Oh, well.

But this was a nice surprise, and an initial answer to my key question: this certainly appears to be a picture from a Major League Baseball game. You won't see a back wall like that on a spring training field. There is no way to be sure on all that, but this is a nice portrait card that is probably also a live action shot, and this is not from the Short Print portion of the checklist, nor is this a special value added 'Action' card; those have a printed text notation of that word right on the back of the card now. Topps 1, Card Cynic 0.

But let's move on to the card that was on the 'top' of the stack of baseball cards, i.e. the one facing right-side up:

These particular cards make me so mad I want to fling them away from me like a frisbee, which is why I will hold that Fiers card in my thoughts of First Card in this product. I think we are up to about 5 years of seeing Red Sox players standing on this exact same spot on so many of their baseball cards. We all know that 1960s sets, and large portions of 1970s sets, were created with photos taken at Spring Training. But those original sets didn't feature entire teams of players all standing on the same spot to have their picture taken, and definitively did not feature that photo composition strategy for years on end. The Red Sox + the bushes has been running for some time now; I actually preferred the run of years when their players stood by a chain link fence, which made for a more menacing card. But some other teams, such as the Tigers, have had repeat backdrops running on for quite a few more years than these (in)famous Red Sox shrubs. And don't even get me started on the summation of the 2019 Eddie Rosario card and the 2020 Eddie Rosario card, which I have seen elsewhere already. Topps 1, Card Cynic -1.

This card creates an instant baseball question: how good will the White Sox be this year? This is what I want from a pack of baseball cards. I particularly like the back of this card:

Now that is how to do a Leaders card. Don't mess around, just give me the top 50 players for that stat. Simple, to the point, very, very informative. I would very much like to see this straight up copied in a Topps Baseball set in the 2020s; Top 10 is nice, but Top 50 is nicer. Topps 2, Card Cynic -1.

You can always tell, in a Topps Baseball set, which teams are down in the cellars of the Leagues. Simply by how many of their cards you pull featuring players you have never heard of. It seems like just yesterday I was adding yet another Chance Cisco card to my pile of "should I save this?" baseball cards. I think, for those Cisco cards, Topps just answered the question for me. Plus, I like a good old fashioned blurry empty seats card, an image that can pretty much only be seen on Topps baseball cards, and is also one that I don't associate with 59 other Orioles Heritage/Archives cards from the last oh so many years. This card also makes me look forward to finding a Giants, O's, Marlins, or Pirates player wearing their Home Alternate uniform. Topps 3, Card Cynic -1.

Meh. But, actually, not really. This card will help me quite a bit in considering the Houston Astros, going forward - none of these players could have been involved in the recent cheating, for one, so they will give me some tiny bit of bright spot to look forward to in Astros box scores. I also had a good friend named Rogelio, once upon a time, though he was from Mexico. That makes me always root for the Mexican players in MLB, so it is a bit of bummer that SeƱor Armenteros there is from Cuba. But I will root for him anyway. Also of note on this card is the home of that imposing looking young third baseman there, but I will leave that for you to discover on the back of your own baseball card. Maybe, he will end up on your team soon enough, considering that a Rookie has little chance of taking a spot from a young almost-MVP, even a young, now hated almost-MVP. Topps 4, Card Cynic -1.

I have pretty much already pulled this card in a previous pack of Topps Baseball cards, and that made me mad.

This is where the laziness of the Topps Photo Day shots really wear out collectors - when you also collect Archives. Which is unfortunate, because players with a big smile always make for good baseball cards, so I like this particular player for that reason and I do want to collect his baseball cards. This particular back drop for Braves cards goes back a solid ten years or so. Topps 4, Card Cynic -3.

Plenty of Giants cards from their "spot." Topps 4, Card Cynic -4. I am going to quit posting these cards. Note that is just a white team name, not a deliberate artificial scarcity value added card, which feature team names printed in silver, for you to chase and give away your money for not much, really.

Now we are starting to cook with some gas. A nice bright live action baseball card, with some really strong lines to the image, too, though only the best we can get for a rare Ball Boy cameo in the ever blurrier 21st century. And my first Tigers, card, sort of, though Cron only has a one year deal with the Tigers, who are fielding 5 such veterans this year all on one year deals, which makes rooting for their results about completely pointless.

On the Cron card I don't quite understand the off-set placement of the facsimile signature; one of the historical-set-mimic-deliberate-errors this year features a poorly placed sig like this one, on the Yordan Alvarez Rookie Cup card. But there is no magic word 'error' in the official spot just above the player picture on the back of the card, so this card is worth essentially 0¢. But, this is the kind of card I was hoping to pull from this pack, and indeed, will be keeping in a binder page prison for all eternity, just to look at some contemporary players on a vintage design.

I will update the score methodology in the pack now - Pose 4, Action 2 (recall Fiers card).

mmmm, so thirsty. I bought this pack of baseball cards instead of a six pack, but I do like King of Beers cards, even though I hardly ever drink that beer, or even buy beer any more, as currently I would have to choose between beer and baseball cards in life due to a # of swings and misses at work, so I am starting to have a love/hate relationship going with this card. But it will have a binder page slot some day too, though not with other 2020 Heritage cards. Pose 4, Action 3.

I think this card is probably a night card. What is also nice about this card is that Allard was traded to Texas last summer. But Topps didn't mess around with simply photoshopping Kolby into a T-for-Texas ball cap and a road grey uni. Or maybe they have updated their PhotoShop license and are now much, much better at such efforts. Still, another type of card I am looking for in my Topps Baseball sets. New team, new uniform (Road Alternate, no less - very nice on vintage designs), new bit of player bio on the back. +1 in the Topps score above. That Greek symbology on the bottom of the card though - what's up with that? Pose 4, Action 4.

I like this posed card quite a bit. A good smile makes a good baseball card. It has a familiar Spring Training vibe to it, but I haven't seen this photo spot 592 times before, neither. And I like those nice perfectly landscaped small trees showing off their Spring colors, too - a perfect card to pull this time of year, writing a blog post and listening to a Spring Training broadcast (I recommend absorbing a bunch of those this week, just in case). I also particularly like that Topps oh so carefully placed the signature reproduction; maybe that is a good sign for other cards in other sets, going forward, as otherwise Topps semi-routinely has players sign their names on cards right over dark uniform, etc., spots in the image, and they didn't exactly ace this detail on that C.J. Cron card. On this card, someone deep in the Topps baseball card mines showed they still care about the final result, on-card. So another +1 for Topps vs. Cynic, though I skipped over 3 other posed cards. Pose 8, Action 4.

Normally, a cap-less baseball card indicates a 1960s Topps Baseball card and they are a bit on the rare side outside of that decade, 'cepting of course their Heritage repros. But also normally, a cap-less baseball card indicates a posed card. Not so here. Also probably a night card - night cards and 1971 Topps Baseball - an interesting combo. I will be watching (my baseball cards).

That particular image of the card amuses me a little; mine is far more well centered but I could not get it to scan straight without the instant cupping of brand new Topps Baseball cards making for crooked scans. Finally I gave up and borrowed someone else's scan from eBay. But that particular copy certainly has more authentic vintage appearance than mine does, though none of my vintage cards have ever curled up and refused to lay flat on a scanner bed the way so many of my brand new baseball cards do lately.

I don't know much about Josh VanMeter, but the Reds are expected to possibly 'make some noise,' as they say, in the NL Central this year, so seeing their new baseball players is why I buy baseball cards. One intriguing little factoid about VanMeter I did just learn is this: he has exactly zero Bowman baseball cards already created. Must be a walk-on. Perhaps, future baseball cards will enlighten me. Pose 8, Action 5.

I am thinking this might be the first baseball card that says "Mad Max" on it, so straight into my little Nifty Nine collection of Max Scherzer cards this will go; and I expect it might stay there over time as though I like Max, I don't really need more than 9 of his nifty baseball cards to keep for all-time.

I am guessing Topps is having one of their mis-adventures with filters here, trying to give a vintage feel for how early 1970s Topps was able to handle cards photographed at night, or something. So perhaps a newer, better, stronger 'Mad Max' card will some day displace this one. I pulled one other NLCS card in this pack and it looks just like this one; I think on balance I would rather just have an un-processed image, whether that matches up to the vintage set or not. Because the image processing is rather obvious, and deliberate here.

But what I really like about this card is once again on the back:

Again I like the simple, old school take on the results of a baseball game, although this almost-complete box score gives the Pitchers exactly bupkis here, outside of their At Bats at least. I was writing about a 2013 Postseason card on the Sea Turtle blog the other day; this vintage Topps approach is far superior. Given how many cards Topps makes these days, what I would like to see in a future Topps Baseball set for a post-season card is simply a nice, detailed box score, as they are created today. There is plenty of room on the back of a 2.5" x 3.5" baseball card for that, particularly with 21st century printing technology and an ability to handle any font at any size. Such an effort _could_ fit, and this card back does have a lot of wasted space. But overall, I will quite a bit look forward to pulling some World Series cards from 2020 Heritage and reading those, rather than the ones I have yet to see in 2020 Series One.

No score update for that card; I pulled 5 cards of the 20 that were either Leaders, multi-Rookies, or PostSeason cards which aren't relative to the pose/action mix. The actual final was Pose 10, Action 5, Tattoos 6 — a bit of a Tattoo hot pack, this one.

And I did not pull any Inserts or Short Prints or Super Short Print "Action" cards - just 20 base cards - when was the last time you purchased a Topps package of some sort and found Zero inserts?

So that basic mix of cards is some pretty good news for me, and I will kind of collect some 2020 Topps Heritage. The basic news on the product remains the same: 400 base cards, 100 short prints. Which is something created by Topps changing to 100 card sheets in about 2015; having 100 short prints probably makes production quite a bit easier than 425 base + 75 sp.

But that makes for one heckuva expensive set of baseball cards, for this decidedly non-professional collector. So I already know I just don't have an option to attempt to collect this entire set, really, given how much it would cost to track down 100 short prints. I would say Heritage is perhaps a "mid-end" baseball card product, rather than a "low end" product which I normally collect due to cost. Though I have always liked 1971 Topps Baseball cards, the actual result of the creation of the 2020 Topps Heritage set finds me just, kind of complacent, I guess.

Ultimately, the repetitive nature of a large portion of the cards kind of helps me out - I don't really need page after page of the same card, over and over again, so I am not particularly disappointed that I can't actually collect this set. But at the same time, the amount of action cards sprinkled through the checklist - (the Munson card is indeed recreated, though I have yet to see who has the Topps Rookie Cup for a Catcher this year) - well, I will have something to look forward to when I casually add a pack of this to my grocery cart over the next year or so. And perhaps as I look to collect a little more carefully in my future, prioritizing cards based on how many binders of baseball cards I really want to own, the crazy nature of 'added value' and manufactured scarcity and the way so many of my fellow hobbyists really collect $$ signs, not baseball cards, well perhaps in Heritage now that works to my advantage. I can take what I need from a few nice memory making cards, and leave the rest. Which should probably work fine for the Psychedelic Tombstones next year, too, particularly as all the live baseball action will be corralled in a subset.

But I only have four years to save up for the Heritage set I really, really want...